Hospital care complaints rise in East Kent

Elderly person Image copyright bbc
Image caption Complaints about hospital care have been highlighted by the Health Service Ombudsman

Last week a damning report by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) revealed that the elderly receive poor care in half of NHS hospitals.

In the south east the CQC identified problems at the Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Eastbourne District General, and the Conquest Hospital in Hastings.

All three say they've since made improvements.

But yet another report today, by the Health Service Ombudsman, shows that a hospital trust in East Kent is one of the top 10 most complained about in the country.

Unenviable ranking

The Ombudsman says it has dealt with 110 complaints about the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust over the last year.

That's an increase from 89 complaints in 2009/10, which gives it the unenviable ranking of the sixth most complained about trust in the country.

East Kent is one of the largest trusts in the country so the fact it's in the top 10 when it comes to complaints should perhaps not be a surprise.

But what is surprising is the rate of increase of complaints - up by almost a quarter.

Most patients complained about clinical care and treatment, with issues about diagnoses and communication also high on the list.

Another problem was the number of patients being struck off by their GP.

Care concerns

In a statement the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust say they take all complaints seriously, that they're not complacent and will continue to try to reduce the number of complaints.

Image copyright bbc
Image caption MP Charlie Elphicke has described the rise in complaints as a cause for concern

But the MP for Dover and Deal, Charlie Elphicke, described the rise in complaints as "striking" and said it's a real cause for concern.

He says he's already met with the Care Quality Commission to discuss his concerns.

Mr Elphicke is calling for Dover to have a proper hospital re-built, as promised.

As far back as 2008 Kent County Council backed the plans for a new hospital in Dover.

But in the intervening period campaigners have been frustrated by what they see as a lack of progress.

Charlie Elphicke says health services in East Kent need to be more accessible and a new hospital would address that.

The Trust says its plans for the hospital are on schedule and work will begin in 2012.

Building new hospitals could prove controversial at a time when many experts say that because of the spending squeeze, services must be rationalised.

Efficiency savings

The coalition government promised to protect the NHS budget, and overall NHS spending will increase by 0.4% in real terms over the course of the Spending Review period.

But, in real terms the figures actually mean a cut for the NHS, because inflation has risen since the Spending Review. Figures today show it rose again to 5.2% last month, up more than half a point on August's figure.

Against that backdrop the NHS chief executive, David Nicholson, has said for a long time that the NHS will need to make big efficiency savings "in order to stand still" over the coming years.

Given that plans to build new hospitals may remain on hold, complaints about the level of service provided are likely to increase.