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Can anyone share experience of PALS complaint service?

(11 Posts)
AngryGnome Fri 12-Oct-12 10:13:23

Following a traumatic birth 21 months ago which left DS with facial scarring and me with spinal damage, I finally contacted PALS about 5/6 months ago with a view to finding out how things went wrong, why etc. After speaking to PALS, I was advised to go through the complaints process.

DH submitted a written complaint on my behalf (I am still finding it very difficult to deal/cope with what happened and need his support) and five months later we have been given a date to go in to meet with the various consultants to try and "resolve" the matter.

The meeting is next week, and I am feeling very anxious about it. Has anyone been through this sort of thing? I am worried that it will be quite adversarial, with the hospital staff being very dismissive and defensive and I don't know how I will cope. DH will be with me, but even so I know I will find it hard

I know that I do need to do this - I need answers, and if appropriate an apology and assurances of how these types of mistakes will be prevented in the future. I still have recurrent nightmares about the birth, and I still think about it constantly - the experience has utterly changed me as a person. I'm also due to have a major operation on my spine next year to try and minimise the effects of the nerve damage, which I am very worried about. I feel that certain actions the staff on the labour ward took, and did not take, caused the problems, and I need to have this properly addressed. But maybe I am expecting too much of this meeting? It seems unlikely that they are going to sit there and say "cards on the table, you're right, we did screw up" even if they did - so I am concerned that even afterwards I am always going to have that doubt in my mind.

Sorry, a bit rambly, not sure what I am asking really - just wondering if anyone has been through this process, and how you prepared for it, did it help with anything?

Thanks for any thoughts any of you might have.

Screaminabdabs Fri 12-Oct-12 16:47:31

Bumping for you, Angrygnome. Really sorry to hear this. sad Have you looked into getting treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Iirc there is an MNer who works for PALS, so hopefully they may see this and offer some advice.

AngryGnome Fri 12-Oct-12 16:57:48

thanks screamin - hopefully some people about tonight.

I haven't really sought any support so far - I have had a good look around the Birth Trauma website, but not really done anything proactive. People in RL keep have said I am coping really well, and I do feel i need to live up to it - but to be fair since I came off zimmer frame and crutches there isn't really anything to "see" wrong with me, the nerve damage is primarily sensory, so to look at me you wouldn't know there was a problem. It's much easier online and anonymously to say you are not coping as well as everyone in RL thinks you are.

Screaminabdabs Fri 12-Oct-12 19:04:02

I'm not sure I can help much, but - are you taking an advocate along with you? Your dh or someone experienced in this area? Shouldn't someone from PALS be coming with you?

I would personally be seeing it as an initial meeting, and plan to be non-committal about what you accept from them. Eg if they say sorry in an inadequate way, you don't, perhaps, want to commit yourself to accepting that apology as adequate. You might not want that to be the end of the matter; whereas they will be hoping that it will be - hoping that you will be content to be fobbed off. You might say: well, I will have to talk to PALS about what they think of your response.

QueenofWhatever Fri 12-Oct-12 19:53:11

I've been on the other side of the table as a hospital manager meeting with patients who have made complaints. It can vary enormously and I can only speak from my own experience and I worked at a Trust that was pretty good at admitting mistakes and had a strong 'no blame' culture. That's actually really important because it can help teams be really open and upfront about what went wrong and why and what they would do differently next time.

The most important thing is for you to be really clear as to what you want to get out of the meeting and also what you want to get out of the whole process. Is it to get an apology, is it for them to agree that they made mistakes they shouldn't have made? Or is it that you want them to have really understood what happened and taken all possible steps to ensure it never happens again. Also, are you looking to take subsequent legal action and try for compensation?

It sounds like a truly awful event and I'm very sorry for you and all your family. I too would seriously consider getting treatment for PTSD (not counselling, please have a look at the NICE guidance).

Screaminabdabs Fri 12-Oct-12 20:05:23

I would have thought if you have to pay for PTSD treatment (although it's available on the NHS), the hospital could at the very least pay for that. Maybe if you needed it for longer than what the NHS will fund, for example.

LonelyLinda Sat 13-Oct-12 13:19:17

Hi there, I have previous experience of PALS and complaints departments in a hospital and my experience is that they are very helpful and friendly people that are there to help you get the end result that you require (as somebody suggested maybe an apology, explanations of actions etc). I would really try not to worry about the meeting as i'm sure that the people will be trying to be positive for you and help you.

If I were you I would start writing down questions and things that you want to talk about because sometimes your mind could go blank and you could come away regretting not asking certain things. There are official guidelines that the hospital will need to follow regarding timescales so that the process doesn't drag on for you so if you require a further meeting arrange it at the end of this meeting so as not to delay it. If you are still dissatisfied that your complaint requirements have not been met/answered there is a governing body that you can escalate your complaint to, I can find this out for you if you require.

Take somebody with you to hold your hand, and some tissues and try to stay calm if possible. Best of luck.xx

AngryGnome Sat 13-Oct-12 20:13:32

Thanks for the replies, and sorry for going AWOL - toddler and dh with tummy bug have taken me away from mumsnet.

It is reassuring to read what you have to say. I think. Lot of my worry lies with my own uncertainty and doubt about going into this process. In my mind, I am not even sure yet that it is a 'complaint' as such - I just need to understand what happened, and how it happened. In my heart of hearts I feel it had to be done to a failure in their duty of care, but equally I am prepared for them to explain it to me and find out that it was 'just one of those things' that couldn't have been foreseen. Once I know more, I may well want to complain but I just feel so in the dark at the moment. I'm not usually one for complaining, so the whole process is new to me.

I think it is good advice to write things down in advance so I don't forget what I want to say/ask. Dh is going to advocate for me - we are both taking a day off work a couple of days before so we can have a chance to have a proper talk about it all.

Thanks again for the advice.

Screaminabdabs Sat 13-Oct-12 21:00:30

Good luck. Hope it's the start of feeling much better. smilethanks

cbmum Sat 13-Oct-12 21:08:39

I had a similar meeting with the hospital post Dd1 and I was glad I did as when Dd2 came along I felt more in control. My issues were minor compared to yours though.

Are you getting some help with all of this? Some of the people I work with specialise in cases like this. pm me if you want details. Good luck with the meeting.

Screaminabdabs Sat 13-Oct-12 23:10:33

Understanding Traumatic Stress is a good book - short and useful IMO. Just as something to help you cope, not particularly to read in preparation for your meeting or anything.

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