GOING into special measures caused a “significant increase” in complaints to the local hospital trust at the end of last year, a report suggests.

Between October and December, the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals NHS Trust received 177 complaints, with 80 in November alone.

Patient liaison chief Julia Palmer says this is thought to be linked to the Care Quality Commission’s decision to place the trust into special measures on November 8, and “adverse publicity” that followed.

But she adds that all complaints received in that quarter were acknowledged within three days and 71 per cent of cases were closed on time – a huge increase on two years ago.

In her report for the trust board, Ms Palmer – SaTH’s patient advice and liaison service head – writes: “In quarter three, the trust received a total of 177 formal complaints which equates to 0.75 complaints per 1,000 patients.

“This is similar to previous quarters.

“There was a significant increase in November 2018, which is thought to be due to the adverse publicity at the time as a result of the trust being placed in special measures.”

Of the complaints received in that quarter, 37 were about A&E at either the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital or Princess Royal Hospital. A&E was also the most complained-about department in the first and second quarter of 2018-19.

“The trust is required to acknowledge all responses within three working days,” Ms Palmer writes.

“The trust achieved 100 per cent compliance with this requirement during quarter three, with 80 per cent receiving an acknowledgement within two working days.

“The timescale for responding to each complaint can depend upon the nature of the issues raised and the level of investigation required, with most timescales ranging from 30 working days up to 60.

“At the time of this report, 71 per cent of complaints in quarter three have been closed within the timescales agreed initially.”

In November 2016, Ms Palmer’s report says, only 20 per cent of complaints were closed within the agreed timescale. This figure had nearly quadrupled by November 2018.

In the same quarter, 166 complaints were closed. Thirty-eight of these were upheld, 89 partly upheld and 39 not upheld.

The SaTH trust board will discuss Ms Palmer’s report when it meets at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital on Thursday, April 4.

Alex Moore