Directions issued under the Hospital Complaints Procedures Act 1985 require all NHS hospitals to make formal arrangements for dealing with complaints and for publicising those arrangements. Under the patients charter, NHS complaints procedures will be extended to all hospitals in which NHS patients receive care.
May we have an urgent inquiry into why, over the past three years, the number of complaints against the health service in Lewisham and North Southwark has gone up by 100 per cent., why there have been 30 complaints already this year and why serious complaints of maladministration and negligence have been made against Guy's, King's College and St. Thomas's hospitals by my constituents over the past year? Why, even when complaints are made, are they often inadequately dealt with, why is there no compensation and why do people sometimes hear nothing for far too long?
The increase in complaints may have something to do with the fact that we believe that it is important that if someone has not received the care to which he thinks he is entitled from the NHS, his right to complain should not be a well-kept secret, as has too often happened in the past. A patient's attention should be drawn to the fact that he has a right to complain and we have taken steps to do so. We take each complaint seriously and seek to ensure that every one is properly examined. I look forward to hearing from the hon. Gentleman how he will deal with the complaints that I expect he will receive from his constituents, when he has to explain to those employed at Guy's hospital why the Labour party's policies would deny that hospital the opportunity to increase staff pay by £6 a week.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his comments. We concluded, after long and careful thought, that it was right to make the change that we announced earlier this week.