A record number of complaints were made to England’s
health service ombudsman last year, many of them against health
authorities that had refused to fund continuing care in nursing
homes, writes Craig Kenny.
In her annual report, the ombudsman Ann Abraham said she had
received 3,994 complaints in 2002 – a 50 per cent increase on the
The huge increase was ‘almost entirely due’ to
complaints about the funding of continuing care in the wake of her
February report, which criticised four health authorities for
wrongly making patients pay for their own care.
‘My investigations showed NHS organisations struggling,
and sometimes failing, to conform to the law and department of
health guidance on this issue,’ the annual report said.
‘The indications were that the problems might be
Abraham’s office received 1,300 similar complaints in the
six weeks after publication of her report in February.
She has since asked NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp to work
with health authorities to ensure that local eligibility criteria
meet the legal standard set by the 1999 Coughlan judgement.
‘In my view it is not for my office to embark on a series
of investigations into matters which should fall on the health
service to resolve,’ the report said.
The annual report says that 30 per cent of complaints made last
year fell within her remit, and were investigated. Three quarters
of these were upheld.