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Northumbria NHS complaints closure targets not met last year

Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington, which is run by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital at Cramlington, which is run by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Fewer than a quarter of complaints to the NHS trust running hospitals in Northumberland and North Tyneside were closed within the target of 35 days last year.

Figures in a report to April’s meeting of the board of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust show that new complaints in 2017-18 were lower than the previous year, dropping from 440 to 380.

The trust’s performance in responding to complaints within the timescale agreed with the complainant has also improved – 90 per cent met this target against 81 per cent in 2016.

However, it is Northumbria Healthcare’s own internal target of closing complaints within 35 days where the trust falls down; the figure was 29 per cent in 2016-17 and it fell to 24 per cent last year, with chairman Alan Richardson describing it as ‘miserable’.

At Monday’s (April 23) meeting, Ellie Monkhouse, the trust’s executive director of nursing, highlighted the statistic, saying that she felt there was a need for more communication with people during the complaints process to let them know if there is going to be a delay.

Earlier in the meeting, board members discussed a patient story which also involved the trust’s complaints procedure and its goal of ‘humanising healthcare’.

The man in question was twice sent home in pain from the Northumbria hospital in Cramlington and described the letter responding to his concerns as ‘inadequate and disappointing’.

However, he was ‘tremendously impressed’ by the fact that the chief executive and another board member later visited him to apologise, adding: “If I had a key message to staff, it would be don’t send anyone away in that level of pain without a plan to fix it.”

Despite this, the meeting also heard that Northumbria Healthcare is among the top 20 per cent of trusts in England for how it is rated by inpatients and outpatients, while patient satisfaction with emergency departments is the highest since the surveys started in 2013-14.

The trust’s chief executive Jim Mackey described the patient perspective data for the fourth quarter of 2017-18 as ‘unbelievable’ given that this timeframe included what he described as a ‘very, very hard winter’.

By Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service