SOME patients at Oxfordshire’s hospitals are unlikely to make a complaint because they are afraid it could affect their treatment.

That is the conclusion of a paper from patient support group Patient Voice which used anecdotal evidence to look into the complaints process at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH).

The paper, also found confusion over the formal complaints procedure and the NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) which provides advice to those wishing to raise a concern.

Speaking to Patient Voice, people had fears as to whether complaints were confidential, if details of the complaint would be put in the patient’s notes and whether their treatment could be affected.

Chair of Patient Voice, Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, said following the feedback that OUH must provide a clearer process for patients to highlight problems with their treatment.

Mrs Pearce-Gervis, said: “Many patients are reluctant to complain about the service they receive in case their treatment, and that of their family is affected. There is also a lack of clarity about the difference between complaints and PALS.

“This serves as a unique source of feedback regarding the trust’s operations.

“Analysis of the data obtained would help to improve efficiency and we hope that the OUH will take on board the suggestions contained in our paper and provide an improved PALS and complaints service for patients.”

Last year the trust received 989 formal complaints, a 10 per cent drop from the previous year which represents the first time in four years that the number of complaints has declined.

OUH chief nurse Sam Foster said the trust welcomed the feedback.

Ms Foster added: “There are a wide range of ways in which patients and their families can share their experiences of our hospitals. Our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) provides confidential help, support and advice for patients and their families who have concerns, queries, questions or want to know how to thank our staff.

“Wherever possible we aim to work together with patients, relatives and carers to resolve concerns about care before they escalate into formal complaints because we want to put things right as soon as possible.

“I would like to reassure all patients that, if they do raise a concern with PALS or make a formal complaint about their care, this will not affect their treatment in any way.

“I have contacted Patient Voice to arrange to meet with them early in the new year to discuss any concerns that their members have raised with them.”