The Commons health committee is to investigate rising complaints against the NHS and how much it is costing the service in litigation.

The committee announced today that it was seeking written evidence for an inquiry into complaints and litigation in the NHS.

The inquiry follows the publication last month of the health service ombudsman’s first report into the new complaints system, and comments from the chair of the forthcoming Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry that its board failed to listen to patient complaints “the necessary attention”.

The deadline for submitting written evidence is 12pm 21 December. In its call for evidence, the committee said it would like to receive information on the following issues in particular:


The reasons for the recent sharp rise in NHS complaints.
The effectiveness of the new complaints system introduced on 1 April 2009.
The effectiveness of the constituent parts of the complaints system: local resolution (supported by the Independent Complaints Advocacy Services); and referral to the Ombudsman
The role of Patient Advice and Liaison Services as a “gateway” to the complaints system
The failure of some foundation trusts to report numbers of complaints
The government’s plans for future complaints-handling arrangements (the white paper says, on p. 19, “Local authorities will be able to commission local HealthWatch or HealthWatch England to provide advocacy and support … supporting individuals who want to make a complaint”)
How data from complaints will feed into the planned new commissioning arrangements (the white paper says, at Para. 2.26, “Building on existing complaints handling structures, we will strengthen arrangements for information sharing”)


The cost of litigation against the NHS
Reasons for the inflation of litigation costs in recent years
The impact of conditional fee (“no win, no fee”) arrangements on litigation against the NHS
The effect of litigation on the development of an open reporting and learning culture in the NHS
The government’s intentions regarding the implementation of the NHS Redress Act 2006
The possible benefits of a statutory right to compensation for “treatment injury” from an independent fund, without the need to prove negligence, as required under tort law
Encouraging the use of mediation before litigation is initiated