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Health Secretary will not intervene in dispute with hospital
A PATIENT once branded a nuisance complainer by the NHS has been told it would be inappropriate for the Health Secretary to become involved in his dispute with local hospital chiefs.
Andrew Brown, aged 49, of St John’s, Worcester, wrote to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to criticise the complaints policy of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.
Mr Brown was branded a ‘vexatious complainant’ by the trust, which runs Worcestershire Royal Hos-pital, last January after he made complaints about the way he was examined using a nasal endoscope without local anaesthetic. The status was overturned seven months later and the trust no longer has any vexatious complainants on its list. He wrote to Mr Hunt attacking some of the reasons used by the hospitals trust to label patients vexatious, including attention seeking behaviour such as invoking an MP or the Secretary of State for Health.
Mr Brown said: “I feel very strongly that it is a patient’s right not only to use the NHS complaints policy, and they should be encouraged to do so, but that if they take the matter up with their member of Parliament or indeed with your office, they should have no obstacle placed in their way by the National Health Service.”
A spokesperson for the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman wro-te: “I was sorry to read of your concerns about the trust’s complaints procedure. However, I hope you will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for the department to become involved in concerns of this nature. If you feel that the trust’s policy is in breach of the regulations, you may wish to ask the Health Service Ombudsman, who is independent of the NHS and of Government, to review the matter.”
Mr Brown said of the response: “I am astonished that the reply states it would not be appropriate for the minister to get involved. I had set out clearly that the policy gave contacting the Minister or an MP as examples of vexatious conduct.”
The Patients Association continues to support Mr Brown, and Sarah Coles, a helpline adviser, said: “After reviewing other NHS Trust complaints policies, it would appear that many trusts do not cite contacting an MP or similar support organisations as vexatious; rather, aggressive patients behaviour will lead to complainants being labelled vexatious in certain circumstances.
“I can confirm that we will write to Worcester Hospital to inform them of our concerns about their complaints policy and the effect it may be having on patients.”