Addressing an inaccurate complaint response

The MDU was able to assist a consultant who felt a trust's response to a complaint didn't accurately reflect the facts.

The scene

A consultant respiratory physician called the MDU advice line after the trust had received a complaint from the family of a patient recently under his care. The family were unhappy that one of the medications the patient had been taking on admission to hospital was not listed on his discharge summary, which had led to a problem in obtaining more of the medication from the patient's GP.

The trust had already provided a response without involving the consultant, but the family were not satisfied with this and were seeking a further explanation. It was only at this point that the complaint was brought to the attention of the consultant.

The consultant was concerned to read the first trust response, which he considered did not accurately reflect the facts. He found that the medication in question was not listed in the GP's referral to the emergency department, and when he checked with the registrar who had documented the admission information in detail, they were both certain that this medication had not been mentioned to either of them at the time of admission or later in the stay. In addition, the consultant couldn't see any current indication for the medication and asked the registrar to clarify this with the GP.

The GP was able to confirm that the medication had been put on repeat in error; it had been intended for short-term use only some months earlier. The GP had realised this error when reviewing the discharge summary and updating medication after discharge, and while he had corrected the patient's prescribing record, he had not explained this to the family. The GP confirmed he would now do so, and apologise to them.

MDU advice

The MDU advised the doctor to draft a full statement to submit to the trust. In this, he first expressed his concern that the original complaint had been dealt with without his involvement and that the original response had been inaccurate, which had compounded the problem. He then gave a detailed account, including his registrar's recollections and the recent additional information from the GP.

The MDU reviewed the draft and assisted the doctor with the wording. When he submitted this to the trust, he asked to be given a draft copy of any further response to the family so he could check it accurately represented the facts.

The outcome

The trust was finally able to provide a meaningful and accurate response to the family, and apologised to the doctor. It was agreed that in future, the trust would take statements from anyone involved in a complaint before finalising a response.

This dilemma is fictional but based on members' experiences and the types of calls we receive to our advice line.

This page was correct at publication on 29/06/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.