What on earth is going on with my healthcare?
When you or a loved one is very unwell, the journey through the healthcare system can seem bewildering and frightening. It’s not uncommon to feel out of the loop when it comes to getting clear information and guidance from the doctors and nurses, whether you are a hospital in-patient, attending outpatients or visiting your GP for specialist tests or treatment. You might be seen by a succession of new people at various times, each appearing to say something different and, in some cases, not really explaining in simple terms what is happening to you and the plan for the future. Of course this is sometimes unavoidable, especially if there are problems in diagnosing your symptoms, or you have several different health problems going on at the same time.
Understanding and keeping track of who is who amongst the various consultants, registrars, junior doctors, nurses and healthcare assistants involved with your care can be too much to cope with. If you are unfamiliar with hospitals and the way they work, worry can set in that you are being overlooked and perhaps not consulted about options for your care.
Lack of communication can quickly lead to anxiety and frustration, which can so easily be reduced if patients and their families are regularly informed about what’s happening in a timely and sensitive way. However we are all very much aware of the pressures the NHS is under to treat increasing numbers of people with ever more complex needs and sadly time for that reassuring bedside chat is often in short supply.
However, help is at hand. Many hospitals have on-site services (known as PALS) to assist patients, friends or family members if they find themselves in need of extra support. There may be posters around the buildings with details of their phone number and location, or they may offer a service where one of their staff visits you on the ward if appropriate. The range of services offered will differ from one Hospital Trust to another, but below is an outline of what you might expect:
PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service)
- Provide confidential information, advice or reassurance to patients, their relatives and carers
- Help resolve smaller issues and problems with current care that can be addressed immediately
- Assist patients/relatives who need time to discuss their concerns
- Act as a first point of call for telephone and face to face enquiries
If you still have concerns and are thinking about raising a complaint, you might find it helpful to talk to someone at The Patients Association. Although unable to discuss medical or legal matters, this national association offers a helpline, explaining that:
“Our focus from day one… has been our helpline, set up to help patients who may have a complaint or question about a healthcare or social care provider. Our vision is for health and social care services that provide high quality and safe care, where patients and their carers are valued as expert partners and recognised as individuals. And for a health system that is compassionate, accessible and inclusive for everyone that seeks to improve and innovate.
Likewise, we want to see a culture where transparency thrives, patients, their families, carers and staff are empowered to raise concerns and make complaints to contribute to a better and safer healthcare system. We believe this should be an accountable system where this feedback is valued and acted upon.”
If you think you might have a claim for financial compensation, need help preparing for an Inquest or wish to make a complaint about serious negligence or misconduct, help and advice can be found through the organisation AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents)
Tel: 0845 123 2352 (Mon – Fri 10am – 3.30pm) or visit their website for more information: https://www.avma.org.uk/
Alternatively, if you are thinking about making a claim in relation to negligence that you or a family member have suffered and you would like further advice, please contact a member of the Medical Negligence Team at Mayo Wynne Baxter on 0800 84 94 101.