In light of todays news story about the poor standards of cleanliness at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, now seems as good a time as any to write a post on how to complain about NHS services.
On the 13th of October 2009, the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI) visited Foresterhill and examined A&E and wards 11, 14, 16 and 33. They found levels of cleanliness to be severely lacking (i.e. parts of the hospital are dirty and this could spread disease).
You can read the full report here. The action plan is also available on the NHS Quality improvement – Scotland website. I have read the full report and it doesn’t make good reading. There are lots of points I could comment on, here are a few:
There is a large discrepancy between what senior management believes is happening and what is taking place at ward level (Pg 15).
What management think happens and what actually happens are two different things. Everyone wants clean hospitals, this requires time, money and people to do the job. Hospital cleaning is a low paid and unpleasant job the cleaners need the time and equipment to do their job properly. Sadly, I get the feeling this report will only put more pressure on them without solving the bigger issue of why this happened in the first place.
The standard of cleaning throughout the wards and public areas inspected was very poor…Senior managment believe cleaning is being carried out effectively. (Pg 11).
Oh dear, what can I say? Management don’t think there is a problem. Maybe there isn’t, but the photos in the report don’t look good.
Weekly cleaning monitoring is not identifying poor standards of cleanliness and although ward managers are signing off the weekly monitoring forms, they are not receiving feedback as to how the ward has performed…Domestic Service Supervisors were performing “walk arounds”…these walk arounds were not effective. (Pg 7).
This point really bugs me, every week someone on each ward is signing a bit of paper to say that everything is fine. What is the point of having a system of checks if it doesn’t work? Why sign a bit of paper to say the ward is clean if it isn’t? Why do this week in week out?
On another ward there were no clinical waste bags and general waste bags were being used throughout the ward. (Pg 9).
WHAT? I find this incredible, having worked in labs, with human samples for years all our waste has to be divided up into clinical waste and “normal” waste. This is even more necessary in a ward where you are dealing with unpleasant things like blood, vomit, urine etc. I would never use a normal bin for clinical waste. Maybe they were taking all their clinical waste to the next ward to dispose of? This just should not happen.
There is no clear allocation of cleaning duties at ward level. (Pg. 11)
Well, if no one knows who is supposed to be cleaning what, then I guess no one is responsible when everything is dirty.
The thing that worries me most of all is that this was an “announced inspection”. If they found dirt on the underside of toilet seats when they knew there was going to be an inspection what is it like normally? Anyway, if you have a complaint to make to NHS Grampian how do you do it?
Firstly get hold of the leaflet “Making a complaint about the NHS“. You should be able to pick one up at your GP, or in your local hospital. You can phone the NHS helpline or NHS 24 and ask for one or download one from the web
The link for this leaflet seems to change frequently, so if you’re stuck go to the NHS Scotland website and use the search box to look for “complaint”. This leaflet gives you details of who to write to, your complaint will be dealt with by the Complaints Team at Woodend. There is also an address if you wish to complain about the Ambulance Service. Generally, you need to complain within 6 months of the event. From June 2008 to July 2009 NHS Grampian received 1,275 complaints, so don’t feel as if you are alone.
All of these issues reminds me of a post called “Nurse Anne is doing her nut“. It is an interesting post and if you can bear the frequent referrals to “witches” and the annoying bold type then you’ll find many of the points made are extremely valid. Nurse Anne has her own blog called “Militant Medical Nurse“, complete with swearing, profanity and some well made points. Basically if there are not enough people to do a job properly and if your staff are treated poorly there are going to be problems regardless of how many sign-off sheets and checklists you complete.