WYE Valley NHS Trust (WVT) faces an investigation into the death of a patient under critical care at Hereford County Hospital.

A complaint related to medical and surgical management prior to the death in the hospital’s critical care unit (CCU) has been referred to the NHS ombudsman.

The ombudsman is also investigating a second complaint against the Trust  from a patient “unhappy” about treatment following a hysterectomy.

Latest figures show complaints against the Trust increased over February - up to 25 from 20 in January. That rise includes the two complaints referred to the ombudsman.

The figures show a corresponding decrease in complaints reviewed within the seven day target. WVT is to raise the number of reviewers in place to cover for annual leave and sickness.

Complaints received over February range from that month back to October 2010, with issues around clinical treatment common to each.

Four clinic claims were lodged against the Trust over February – all of which are being reviewed by the Trust solicitor – and eight complaints re-opened ranging from the alleged misdiagnosis of Deep Vein Thombosis in a leg to concerns over catering.

In February, the Hereford Times reported WVT as challenging statistics from the health and social care information centre which put its death rates amongst the highest in England, based on mortality ratios between 2011-2013.

The resulting report, however, also showed that in each of the quarters over the past year WVT’s mortality rates had been as expected.

WVT said the “highly derived and complicated” statistics needed careful interpretation as indicators and not absolute measurements.

In a statement, WVT said it had procedures in place to support patient complaints on “rare occasions”  care and treatment fails to live up to expectations.

A patient experience team can act as an advocate to support patients through the process.
Depending on the outcome, sometimes an investigation following a complaint can lead to changes in the way the Trust operates.

If a complaint cannot be resolved locally, patients have a right for their complaint to be heard by the Ombudsman for Health.

The Trust statement stressed that such cases were “extremely rare”

“WVT always takes on boards the decision of the Ombudsman and his findings are considered by the Trust’s Quality Committee to see if there are lessons that can be learnt or processes changed,” the statement said.

Patient watchdog Healthwatch Herefordshire (HH) plans a public meeting next month to call for clarity over an “utterly bewildering” health and care complaints system.

HH chairman Paul Deneen said  concerns and complaints relating to health service providers were going unheard because the system was “simply too complex”.

The issue is on the agenda of the next public HH board meeting on Tuesday May 6 from 2pm, at the Kindle Centre, Hereford.