Adopting an integrated approach to investigating complaints about health and social care has led to significant benefits, according to a new report by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) and Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).
Published today, the report explains the work of the ombudsmen’s Joint Working Team (JWT), which was set up in 2015 to investigate the most complex joint health and social care complaints. During its first year the team carried out 180 investigations. It discovered that many of the problems experienced have been caused by the complex way in which health and social care is provided at a local level.
Common issues include:
- Delays in assessments, meaning that people have to wait longer to get the care they need
- Poor care or failure to provide services altogether
- Failure to deal with safeguarding issues
- Lack of appropriate aftercare following discharge from hospital for those sectioned under the Mental Health Act
The JWT comprises investigators from both organisations, who have been trained to deal with complaints about both health and social care provision, rather than specialising in just one of these areas, as they would have done previously
The complaints looked at by the team may include social services, health trusts, clinical care commissioning groups or care agencies. The report includes a range of case studies which illustrate the experiences of people who were affected by failure to deliver services. In some cases, this caused considerable hardship and stress.
In one case, Michael (not real name) explained how he came close to cracking under the pressure of spending 15 months trying to get funding agreed for a home care package, so his brother-in-law could return home.
'This caused me so much stress; I nearly ended up in hospital myself. No-one talked to each other, all they seemed to do was push the blame backwards and forwards and nothing was ever resolved. I was in despair. It seemed that no-one wanted to help me.
'If I learned one thing from this experience it was that health and social care providers need to work together better. It was this which caused a lot of my problems.'
Dr Jane Martin, Local Government Ombudsman said:
'Health and social care services provide vital support for some of the most vulnerable people in the country. For people who rely on these services when things go wrong, the impact can be life-changing. It is therefore essential there is a clear and simple to navigate route to achieving redress when the worst happens.
'The Joint Working Team has made it a less complicated process for people to bring a complaint and easier for the Ombudsmen to investigate issues which involve both health and social care.'
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor commented:
A fragmented health and social care system means that time and time again these services fail and vulnerable people fall through the cracks.
'For families who have gone through a confusing local complaints process, we have made it easier for them by setting up a joint team with the Local Government Ombudsman.
'That’s why we welcome the Government’s commitment to creating a single Ombudsman, which will make it easier for people to complain when they have been let down by a public service.'
The report is published two weeks after the Government published draft legislation to create a new Public Service Ombudsman, which would investigate complaints across many public services.
There is a 12-week consultation period during which comments and feedback on the proposals are invited. To access the consultation visit the Draft Public Service Ombudsman Bill on GOV.UK.
Notes to editors
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England and UK government departments and other UK public organisations. Almost 80% of cases investigated by the Ombudsman service are about the NHS and the rest are about UK government departments and other organisations.
The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) looks at complaints about local public services, resolving more than 11,000 complaints a year. We're also the Social Care Ombudsman. We are responsible for resolving complaints about all registered social care providers, whether that care is publicly-funded or independently paid for or arranged without a council's involvement.