A SURVEY has found more than half the population feels too intimidated to complain about the quality of healthcare – yet the number of patient complaints received by the Health Service Executive last year rose by 63%.
The HSE, which received almost 8,000 complaints from service users in 2009, has attributed the increase to progress made “in ensuring that the complaints process is easily accessed and that people feel able or empowered to make complaints”.
However, the poll shows:
* For those people who experienced care below their expectations, justone third made a complaint about it.
* Half felt too intimidated to make a complaint.
* Nine in 10 felt it would be easier to complain if they were certain it would not negatively affect their treatment.
n84% said it was difficult to know who to complain to.
The Red C poll, carried out on behalf of the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), also found three quarters of the population does not believe taxpayers’ money is wisely spent in healthcare and more than four in 10 believes the healthcare they received was substandard.
In addition, despite the fact that 95% of people believe it is important that senior staff take responsibility for quality and safety of services, almost nine in 10 do not feel this is the case.
The poll was commissioned by HIQA to gauge public attitudes towards healthcare in the run-up to public consultation on the Draft National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare, due to be published shortly.
Jon Billings, director of healthcare quality and safety with HIQA, said it was vital to hear directly from those who use services. He said there was “a strong message from the public on the management of complaints within the system” and that it was an area the draft standards will address.
The HSE said it “shares the view that there is a need for openness in service provision and a need to encourage patients to give feedback”.
Independent patient advocacy group, Patient Focus, said it was dealing on a daily basis with people who have complaints “and while there are some exceptions, most complaints are taking far too long to be resolved”.
A spokesman said in some cases Patient Focus is dealing with, where adverse events have occurred, a systems analysis review has not been carried out. The spokesman said the poll showed people want more openness in the system but Patient Focus believes this will only happen with the introduction of “a duty of candour” in the healthcare system.
The Irish Patients’ Association (IPA) said the standards, when published, would go a long way towards affecting change for the better in a system where reform is currently driven by tragedies such as patient death and injury.
Fine Gael health spokesman and deputy leader, Dr James Reilly, said the poll findings showed the need “for a strong, independent advocate to handle patient complaints such as the Patient Safety Authority”.
The Red C poll also found while most (97%) wanted care at a time and a place that was convenient, 72% accepted and understood the need to travel for high-quality specialist services; 99% said they wanted to be informed if something went wrong in treatment and that providers should take steps to prevent mistakes and ensure lessons were learned; and 95% want clear information around treatment options, costs and care planning.
Following the consultation process, and when the standards are completed and approved by Government, they will apply across all health sectors.
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