HEALTHWATCH Dorset says it is "delighted" that Bournemouth Hospital has implemented changes to the way patient complaints are now handled.

The county health watchdog has been working with the Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals after publishing a report, Fobbed Off, following feedback from more than 150 people who had experienced the NHS complains system locally.

Some 70 per cent of respondents said they were not offered any opportunity to discuss or meet with staff during the complaint making process, with 78 per cent saying they knew nothing about support available by an independent advocate.

Since working with hospital staff, Healthwatch Dorset says changes to the way complaints are now handled are having a "positive impact on patients and their relatives."

Joyce Guest, chairman of Dorset Healthwatch, said: "We wanted local NHS organisations to see complaints as gold dust, a critical source of intelligence about how to improve services - feedback that should be welcomed as a way to improve how our services treat and care for people.

"We've been working closely with our local NHS and we're delighted to see the actions that Royal Bournemouth & Christchurch Hospitals have taken to ensure that local people receive the standard of service that they not only deserve but have a right to expect."

Following their initial report, Heathwatch Dorset made six recommendations to the NHS in Dorset.

These included raising awareness of the help available through Dorset Advocacy and giving patients and families the opportunity to meet with staff at the every beginning of the complains procedure.

Bournemouth Hospital public engagement and volunteer service head, Rachel Bevan, said: "Healthwatch Dorset's report has really helped us to identify the problems our patients can face when raising a concern about their care. We've implemented all of the recommendations Healthwatch made and we're already seeing the benefits.

"A patient at Bournemouth Hospital, who was recently admitted with a suspected heart attack, raised concerns about the lack of clear information they were given.

"In response the department gathered more patient feedback and now works more closely with the emergency department to identify patients for transfer to cardiology as soon as possible.

"This early identification of patients has helped to improve the patient experience and has also reduced their stay in hospital by up to 36-hours.

"We will carry on working with Healthwatch Dorset to encourage feedback from our patients & improve services."