Jersey's Health Department has pledged to improve its travel policy, following a complaint by a mother who was denied funding for severe pain therapy in the UK. And the Government is to introduce a new "OneGov Complaints Policy" which could see issues escalated all the way to the Chief Minister.
But the islander at the heart of the Health complaint, says the improvements pledged by Deputy Richard Renouf don't go far enough.
The Minister confirmed that changes were being made in response to the complaint by Mrs X*, as he apologised to her for his department’s “shortcomings” in replying to her emails and the attitude of some staff, and their handling of the travel policy.
Deputy Renouf also apologised for the fact the Department did not meet its stated timeline in dealing with Mrs X's complaint against the doctor who had referred her to the UK for severe pain.
Pictured: At the centre of Mrs X's complaint was a two-year dispute over the Health Department's Travel Policy.
The Complaints Board, chaired by Geoffrey Crill, upheld Mrs X’s complaint and slammed the department in a damning report, published in January 2019, suggesting that the behaviour of officials had been “cruel and potentially negligent”, involving discourteous email exchanges.
The Health Minister replied to the findings of the Board last week and said he “accepted” their decision to uphold the complaint, acknowledging that there had been “failings in the way that Mrs X’s complaint was handled in 2017."
He indicated that a number of changes are due to be introduced in the Department to improve patients’ experiences.
Pictured: The Health Minister, Deputy Richard Renouf, said a number of changes are planned in the department.
The Travel Policy, which the Complaints Board recommended be updated to assist patients like Mrs X who can't pay for expenses upfront, is currently under further review, the Minister said, “to improve guidance and clarity."
He thanked Mrs X and the Board “for making the Department aware of the impact that policy limitations can have on patients,” and promised to “...balance the need for a fair, equitable policy with the current financial constraints on public spending."
The Health Department is also planning to introduce a Patient Advisory and Liaison Service, “in the near future." This would give patients who have complaints with the department a point of contact, and “...a champion for them throughout the complaints process."
Since Mrs X’s complaint, the department was also said to have made changes to the way in which complaints are handled, now having put in place a dedicated Feedback and Complaints Officer.
Pictured: A government-wide complaints policy is due to be introduced soon.
Furthermore, the Government is currently working on a “OneGov Complaints Policy” to improve the complaints process throughout all departments and ensure a more timely response. This will include a “clear line of reporting of complaint data up to the Chief Minister level."
The Minister also said his department continues “to improve procedures and training to ensure better communication between patients and staff."
But Mrs X, who previously warned that blind adherence to policy was threatening the care given to patients, said she was disappointed by the Minister’s response. “There’s absolutely no effort by the Minister to put the Patient/User first, even admitting some failings by the staff,” she told Express.
Whilst she noted the improvements announced by the Minister, Mrs X said that renaming the complaints department does not solve the “overwhelming issue” that brought her case to the Complaints Panel, which she described as a “complete breakdown of their complaints process."
Pictured: Mrs. X says the Minister's response did not address the Consultant's administration.
Mrs X added that the Minister’s response did not address the Consultant’s administration and their Patient Travel Service, which she described as not “fit for purpose."
Finally, Mrs X said she regrets that there is “no accountability for those that were directly involved in this case and who had ample opportunities to take control during the preceding 26 months that I was left without any care."
“Not exactly a public service,” she concluded.
*Name changed to protect anonymity.
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