The one short straw


The BBC reports that a thorough review of the NHS in England by the National Audit Office has found "little evidence" that patient’s complaints improved services. In fact, most don’t even bother to kick up a fuss because they don’t think it will make any difference, while those that do find the whole process a bureaucratic mess.

A spokesman for the Patients Association said: “Despite the army of people involved, the NHS is light years away from a genuine complaints service. It lacks compassion, is bureaucratic beyond belief and takes far too long. This is not a "service", it is a sham.'

In response to the report, a spokesman for the Department of Health has stated that: "From next year, we are simplifying the system. Greater emphasis is to be placed on working with the complainant to resolve cases satisfactorily at a local level. We are also requiring NHS organisations and local authorities to publicise the complaints procedure and encourage people to use it. In addition, local organisations will publish information on the number of complaints received and how they have been dealt with."

However, this response fails to address the underlying problem the report highlights. Although the process of complaining is arduous, the real problem is that apathy reigns supreme; patients rightly fail to see how such a vast inefficient bureaucracy can even hope to offer a decent service. As such, what point is there in complaining?

With most people taxed beyond the means of paying for private healthcare, patients are unable to take their custom elsewhere, surely the most common reaction to bad service in the private sector. Foundation Hospitals have failed to address this core problem. Instead, people should be free to divert their money – which the government currently wastes on the NHS – into privately provided healthcare. This would empower many more people to enjoy the undoubted benefits the private system, currently only enjoyed by the very wealthy.