Hospital failing ... would you complain?

MIL is 88, in hospital due to vomiting/choking issues and aspiration of fluid leading to suspected pneumonia. I clearly stated her dysphagia and swallowing issues, including need for Level 6 soft bite-sized meals recommended by SaLT assessment, to the ambulance crew who attended her and took her to hospital in early hours yesterday. I spoke to the ward she was admitted to and checked this was recorded. Visited today and found she had been moved. We went to the new ward and mentioned this to the HCA who was taking her Obs. She went and found her notes, and said this was clearly stated on there “Level 6 Bite sized meals due to swallowing issues”.

We were still there when afternoon tea lady came in, and asked MIL as a newbie on the ward what she wanted for evening meal … rattled off a long list of choices. I said “she is Level 6 bite sized” … reply “I haven’t been told this” ??? (she made a quick call and came back with a revised list of L6 meal choices). MIL has CHOKING issues which is why she was admitted. She also has confusion/mild dementia so doesn’t understand she cannot eat “normal” meals. This is on her notes and has been verbally checked by me at least twice …

In my book this is a duty of care, and if I had not been present to query, could have put her at risk! I am not a natural complainer, but really think this needs to be addressed …

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Yes, complain to the hospital. If you didn’t and something terrible happened, you would never forgive yourself.


Agree wholeheartedly @bowlingbun !

It was so lucky you were there and ‘on the ball’ enough to point it out @Witch_hazel

Sad state of affairs with so many hospital staff not being properly briefed.


Yes definitely complain!

My Dad had cancer of the oesophagus and could not swallow solids. There was a sign above his bed that said “pureed food only.”

I was horrified to see someone arrive at his bedside with his meal following surgery. Steak and kidney pie and chips!!! I was horrified and told the girl to bring him some pureed food. I also told the nurses but they just shrugged.


I agree with everyone else. Complain. The reason is simple: hospitals have been under pressure for so long that they’re taking short cuts: not communicating with each other and not reading vital information contained in the notes. This leads to deaths. Our local mental health trust has faced severe criticism over this by the local coroner in the recent past.


Thanks all, I have had a call from the Ward Registrar this morning, and I told him about this and that it is a failure in their Duty of Care towards her. Its even worse because she is in a side room, totally unsupervised and out of sight of staff and fellow patients. If she was in an open ward and started to choke, someone would have been able to alert staff for her. Had humble apologies and said he will ensure this doesn’t happen again … I said I hope so as its in her notes and should be notified to everyone she has contact with.

I also said she needs a full MOT before she is sent home this time, as previous hospital visits have been a few days R&R and nothing changes. Her needs have increased, she is much more confused in last 12 months and asking her questions or giving her information is not going to work. He went through a thorough questionnaire with me of all her health issues and meds needs (this was provided at the time the Ambo guys too her in and again discussed with the Ward yesterday, but hey-ho I am happy to go through it as many times as needed to get them to take notice). He is going to look into a dementia assessment (her own GP brushed me off when I suggested it, saying its just normal mental decline and age related confusion!). Hopefully they will do as he promised this morning and get her checked head to toe before discharge, and try to find out why she is throwing up at 1am (twice in just over a week) and then choking on her own vomit, otherwise she will be back in there again in 5 minutes … thanks again for all comments :slight_smile:


Just had a thought, when I was in hospital a few years ago, before an operation a note was written on a blackboard behind me that said “nil by mouth”. Old fashioned, but it worked! Many medical staff don’t realise the importance of a dementia diagnosis. Someone can claim DLA/PIP and then they can also claim exemption from Council Tax, which in my area might mean an extra £1,000 per year saved.


Just had a call from their pharmacy assistant … " I have been speaking to **** and she said she manages her own meds, then the next minute says she doesn’t know what she takes and when … she seems a bit muddled and confused" … I bit my tongue, but did say this is all in her notes. I gave the name of the care company who provide her 4x daily home care (in her notes) … I gave the name of her GP surgery in case she needed to contact them (also in her notes). I still cannot believe in this modern, techno age that this is not all available at the click of a mouse or push of a computer button … I am happy to repeat it as many times as I need to, but surely there is a better, quicker, more efficient and cost effective way to do this … plus if they are taking MIL’s word for things, when I have said so many times that she is likely to be suffering from dementia, cannot retain information and will struggle to answer their questions, this is not right …


@Witch_hazel :people_hugging: :people_hugging:
I hear you, you’re so right and I know exactly how you feel. Frustrated, worried for MIL, angry, indignant and gobsmacked at the level of disconnected-ness and much much more…keep venting here you’ll need to, to stay sane…
Sending BIG empathy bucketloads over
If I say some of this quick it won’t pain me too much - Dad had vascular dementia, had twisted arthritic gnarled fingers, toes, but was 80% cognisant and thus, frustrated with everything, so he couldn’t hold a cup unless it had a handle, his hands didn’t have much strength, and his heart failure meant he was weak and had all that means he couldn’t toilet easily, nor dress easily (so we got BIG Tshirts and baggy trousers)…all that and he had bladder cancer and 2 ops in 3 years…with lots of admissions in between due to unstable heart failure…
I’m sharing more than I usually do, because he also self-discharged a lot and we had to walk a VERY thin line with the hospital staff who I felt I started to know almost know by name - and not in a nice way…
a few times other patients shouted at nurses to help Dad eat and drink…on the ward. 1 operation I refused to leave him overnight,

Ok so moving on quickly a few takeaways which everyone can put a BIG caveat around because these depend heavily where you are in the country / UK, services, savings etc etc

  1. most impt for us since Mum was diagnosed with cancer in Dad’s final months - ALL her planned surgery & treatment would be ‘under’ / in another hospital and 1.5hr away, which is a centre of excellence for cancer
  2. For Dad, during the most fraught stress time here’s what I did which may or may not be something that can help:
  • Typed up an excel document of medications, allergies, BIG letters about Dad’s need for help to dress, toilet, eat, drink on his own e.g. amiodarone - dose, frequency and form of medication, started x date increased or decreased dose on y date. Printed 10 copies and handed them out to every person, AND put it on his table and in his notes

  • same for medical history

  • @bowlingbun point, I actually wrote on the wipeboard behind Dads bed (frustration increases badass-ness)…also put 'Dr. ’ on the board…not that it ever made a difference really that he had dedicated decades of his life…(sorry feeling a BIG dose of empathy for you here!)

  • I’m not afraid to confess that I used the teary, daughter effect a LOT - well because I was but also being more memorable as the relative and making Dad more memorable to them can increase their support…although this also back fired when Dad was shouting or ‘seemed to be difficult’ - translation he was in tons of pain, frustrated and could get to the toilet easily - must edit and say here I do not blame people themselves EVERYONE was really trying hard, best of intentions but the focus on admin, tick boxes, performance marks and limited staff who are tired and fed up in the current NHS system…sucks. The system itself of command and control needs overhauling…'nough said
    *also gave tub of sweets to placate end of visit because I knew we’d be back in a few days in another emergency…whilst I didn’t know all the ward staff I knew all the paramedic staff

our part of the country started digital end of 2020/21 because Mum needed A&E…and for all that digital lovely stuff - the A&E did quickly get Mum had cancer, isolated her (Covid time) and they had her info on arrival…BUT I still handed over excel sheets, needed to brief staff, whilst shoving the paper at them…and repeated info to each staff member…

Sorrry - bit of soapbox ranting because the clicks are coming BUT the training and interactions are still catching up too (if they are catching at all!) …
BUT the other hospital where Mum had 2 surgeries AMAZING - the ward was lovely, the staff actually CARING, solicitous, anticipating needs AND the digital board - ie TV with all stats was on the wall at the nurses station OMG

Moral of this story - live near a Centre of Excellence hospital, until then assume nothing, print hardcopies, ready in your go-bag for hospital with limited resources and minimal leadership!

Someone should tell the TV channels that Daytime TV should be Escape to best hospital catchment area, or Place near a good hospital bed…instead of trying to find a house with stairs to fall on, or a country where Brexit excludes you from their health system…

@Witch_hazel so sorry, think a nerve was hit and chord was struck!


Morning - without wanting to simply say ‘here’s another tale of woe’, may I relate an experience my cousins had earlier this year.

She is a 62 year old doctor - has worked in several hospitals and been a GP and for the last five years prior to her series of strokes had been working in this particular hospital as a doctor training other doctors.

She had to have a hip replacement and after surgery was lying in bed. As a result of her last stroke, she lost peripheral vision in her right eye and can no longer see beyond about 40 degrees on that side. Also her time perception is not so good. All included in her notes.

One morning she was taken off for some tests and missed breakfast, at lunchtime she didn’t notice they didn’t bring any lunch for her and it was after tea time when she was feeling very hungry that she managed to ask someone if she was getting any food.

The reply was ‘oh we thought you didn’t want anything cos you didn’t fill out the menu card’. ‘WHAT MENU CARD’… Yep you’ve guessed it ‘The one over there on the table on your right…’

To say she exploded with rage is an understatement apparently. As she knew what to do she demanded to see the Ward Manager and several others and informed them she was putting in a formal complaint of neglect because no one bothered to check WHY she wasn’t eating.

If that can happen to a very intelligent doctor, what hope is therefor us mere mortals.


Yes it’s important to complain - I’m doing a horrid upsetting complaint myself - but the hospital and staff don’t make it easy for anyone to complain; they’ll gaslight you and do things to people off complaining. BUT you need to put the complaint in writing via email so you can keep track. But the hospital has 60-90 days to respond. It’s so frustrating because obviously one doesn’t want to be see to be complaining whilst one’s loved one is under their care. Sadly the ward staff including doctors tend to club together. It’s best to complain within 3 months of realising a problem.

Sadly for me my heart is broken forever because the hospital killed off my dad - long story but I’m writing a book about it one day and will be campaigning for more transparent care and communication and the videoing of when the doctors slap on a DOL - I can hardly type anymore because I’m heartbroken about my dad.

Likewise he needed small food and within a day he’d had a choking thing and my suspicion now is purposeful negligence… it’s not care it’s negligence. My apologies for typing so much upsetting stuff but too many elderly people in hospital are not being cared for adequately. And if we complain then the staff treat us with hostility. It shouldn’t be like this. I’ve heard too many stories and witnessed too much poor practice where it could do easily be good practice.

I’m sorry to read your your story and hope and wish all the best for your loved one.

I emailed my complaint to PALS. Please state you want a written reply because they’ll try to discuss it with verbally to try to confuse and gaslight complainers and put them off.

I’m not if my words here help but you know in your heart they’ve made errors whether on purpose or by negligence and therefore a formal complaint in writing is important and an immediate acknowledgement from the hospital that they’ve received your complaint.

Best wishes
:cherry_blossom::four_leaf_clover: x

My husband died in his sleep from a massive heart attack. In the last 6 weeks of his life he wasn’t his usual self, saw doctors who thought he had arthritis or was a secret alcoholic!! After he died I used the legal expenses insurance to find out what went wrong. Before I could do this I first had to make a formal complaint myself to the hospital.

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I did put in a complaint about the treatment G had at the Eye Hospital - the delays and the simple fact of not being able to get through to speak to anyone by phone - end up in a loop of menus and everyone says they can’t help, so you start again. I had acknowledgement stating "we are receiving a very high number of enquiries/complaints so there may be a long delay in replying’. Shouldn’t that tell them something - if so many complaints are received then SOMETHING is going seriously wrong. Eventually - after just over three months - they did admit that the system for contacting to find out information is not working and ‘it will be looked at’. I doubt anything has changed as the phone menu is the same…

I complained to the trust about my 87 year old mum’s lack of care. She was left vomiting, in pain, and unfed after being admitted with 2 fractured lumbar vertebra and collar bone after a fall in the hospital outpatients. She had an acute kidney injury due to dehydration. The staff recorded that she had declined analgesia and food, but did not say it was because she was vomiting and could keep nothing down. Pals were supportive in helping me with the complaint. The ward sister was unhelpful. I escalated the complaint to the trust CEO. I also alerted the Care Quality Commission. I felt my mum was actively at risk and was suffering from neglect. I put everything in writing. I also refused to go home and insisted on caring for mum myself. I felt like they were leaving her to die. It was incredibly distressing. Mum was transferred to another ward within the trust where the care was outstanding. She got home after 3 weeks. We were invited to a meeting with the CEO, the head of the pain team, the senior orthopaedic surgeon and a PALs rep. Mum got a full apology. They said the trust had let her down. Several members of the nursing team had to have further training. Mum also got a video record of the meeting and a written letter of apology. I am a retired NHS ward sister and I used to work at the trust where this happened. Sometimes we have to complain. We support the NHS and my heart goes out to the staff but our vulnerable loved ones need us to advocate for them.

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@HeatherHara :people_hugging: Thank you for taking the time to share this here.
Heart wrenching to read, but I agree wholeheartedly and giving your testimonial here helps us all
thank you

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Good to hear that finally they accepted mistakes were made and some staff had to have further training. Relatives need to speak up. I always hope that in doing so, it may help those without relatives.

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Well done for fighting your Mothers corner. I know it takes strength but for a loved one we find it


My Wife has been on the receiving end of poor care by the NHS. The first incident in 2021 led to a Safeguarding finding of negligent care through organisational abuse. Ros had been left with a Cat 4 Pressure Sore. The infection came close to killing her.

The NHS seems to be on its knees, doesn’t it?

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Sad to say @Charlesh47 that seems to be the case - but when you do find good care it can be amazing - just hard to locate in the bureaucracy !

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