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Ombudsman raises concerns about health trust handling of complaints

Northern Ireland Ombudsman Marie Anderson has raised concerns about how the north's health trusts handle serious adverse incidents

THE chief executive of the Belfast health trust was asked to apologise to a woman and her family after a complaint following the death of her brother was badly handled.

Northern Ireland Ombudsman Marie Anderson referred to the "tragic and distressing" case in her annual report and raised wider concerns about how the north's health trusts handle 'serious adverse incidents' (SAI) and complaints linked to them.

The woman complained to the ombudsman's office because she was dissatisfied with the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust's response to concerns she raised over her late brother's care and treatment.

The man, who was suffering from mental health problems, took a overdose of his prescribed anti-psychotic medication in September 2011.

He told his mother, who brought him to A&E where he died. The family said they expected he would be treated for the overdose and complained that no staff indicated it was potentially fatal.

The ombudsman found A&E staff treated him according to the advice available and there was nothing they could have done given the type of medication he had taken.

However, she found staff failed to carry out hourly observations while he was in A&E and a community psychiatric nurse failed to provide appropriate follow-up treatment when the man's mother previously said his mental health had declined.

The ombudsman also found that complaints made by the family of the man were handled poorly and recommended the trust's chief executive make an apology.

It was one of three SAIs referred to the ombudsman in 2015-2016.

Ms Anderson said she would engage with the five trusts to improve the handling of complaints.

Health and social care providers accounted for 45 per cent of 740 complaints made to the ombudsman in the last financial year - an increase of four per cent on the previous year.

Ms Anderson highlighted the need for trusts to improve their communications with patients and families.

"I would remind those involved in providing care of the need to communicate clearly and in a timely manner with patients and their families to the extent permitted," she said.

In another complaint, the ombudsman recommended the chief executive of the Health and Social Care Board apologise to the husband of a woman who was unhappy with her treatment by her GP.

Ms Anderson found that the board failed to maintain accurate records of its meeting with the woman's husband, took on roles assigned to the GP practice and expressed an opinion on an independent medical report.

Other upheld complaints made to the ombudsman included against the board of governors of Lack Primary School in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh for failing to properly investigate an allegation of the bullying of a child.

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