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Widow asks PM to ease procedures

PUBLISHED: 03:02 22 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:36 03 March 2010

A DETERMINED widow is writing to Tony Blair to insist the NHS complaints procedure is made easier – after a two-year fight to get improvements made after her husband's death.

A DETERMINED widow is writing to Tony Blair to insist the NHS complaints procedure is made easier – after a two-year fight to get improvements made after her husband's death.

Jean Todd, whose husband, John, died in Ipswich Hospital in May 2000, claims his last months dying from cancer were made all the more agonising, by neglect and slow treatment after waiting months for a scan.

Mr Todd, 72, eventually had a scan on May 4, which showed massive cancer of the lung, liver, bone and trachea, and he died on May 10.

His wife who worked in the occupational therapy department at the hospital for 17 years, claims he had also been made to suffer an unproductive throat operation just before his death, and was not given pain relief until she insisted on it.

Her battle to get answers and improve services for others in future, led her through a labyrinth of officials – from the hospital's chief executive, to its complaints convenor, the Ombudsman, and Lord Philip Hunt, Parliamentary under secretary of state.

With help from the patients' watchdog, the East Suffolk Community Health Council, she also commissioned an official Independent Clinical Adviser's report from an unbiased consultant in the Midlands, which reviewed her case and made recommendations to change hospital procedures.

The saga finally culminated in a meeting with Ipswich Hospital's medical director, Ian Scott, and chief executive, Peter Morris, in November.

Mrs Todd said: "I finally met Mr Scott, and he was brilliant. I have written to thank him. I just wish I could have been allowed to have a conversation with him in the beginning, when I had asked.

"Complaints about medical matters should not be channeled through the chief executive, but through someone who understands and can explain what happened. That's all I ever wanted.

"People should be treated with respect, courtesy and kindness, and not have to feel like they are pushed from pillar to post in a long drawn-out process. When people feel they have been fobbed off they get aggressive. If I'd been a lesser person I'd have given up, but I was too bloody-minded."

At the meeting Mr Scott admitted a "disastrous administration problem occurred" when a request for Mr Todd to have a scan was not processed quickly enough.

Mr Scott also apologised for the lack of pain relief Mr Todd suffered prior to his death.

But since then, changes have been made at the hospital.

A new Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service has been set up.

Scans are now done faster because more equipment has been bought, and GPs are given a monthly report of waiting times.

Staff training about pain relief and palliative care, is being reviewed, and lung cancer clinics are run differently.

Mrs Todd said she never knew 'do not resuscitate' had been written on her late husband's notes, but there is now a hospital policy to discuss resuscitation with patients and their relatives.

She also thanked all her friends and neighbours for their support.


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