Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Health care failings and the elderly

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Julie Mellor, has spoken about the results of research she commissioned into the difficulties faced by elderly patients who have received inadequate healthcare.

The research involved a national survey of 700 people over the age of 65, as well as a review of focus groups and case studies. The findings suggested 56% of people aged over 65 who experienced a problem did not complain due to concerns that it might have a detrimental effect on future treatment they might need. Almost 20% of those asked did not know how to raise a complaint. A third felt complaining would make no difference.

“It could mean some are suffering in silence” commented Dame Julie, which may “lead to missed opportunities to improve the service for others”.

The findings are doubly concerning, in that the over 65s are the most frequent users of healthcare facilities, with those at the upper end of the age range often experiencing the greatest need for healthcare. If patients in the most need and at their most vulnerable feel unable to raise concerns when they have experienced inadequate treatment, it suggests that the “care” element of “healthcare” is not receiving the attention that it deserves. Indeed it can sometimes appear that poor care has been provided in the knowledge that a complaint is unlikely to result and those responsible can rely on the silence of the patient to avoid censure.

Caroline Abrahams of Age UK said:

Seeking and responding to older people’s views and experiences is crucial if we are to prevent future care scandals like those that have too often blighted our hospitals and care homes in recent years.”

Here at Clarke Willmott we know only too well that it is often members of the family who take up a complaint on behalf of an elderly relative but access to justice should be available to all. Wherever possible we strive to ease the process and reassure elderly patients that making enquiries about the standard of care they have received will not affect their future care.

If you or a member of your family have experienced poor healthcare and wish to discuss the situation please contact us on 0800 316 8892