Complaints and Raising Concerns: Health Committee publish report.
House of Commons Health Committee
Fourth Report: Complaints and Raising Concerns
Most of those who complain about NHS services do not seek financial redress. They do so because they wish to have their concerns and experiences understood and for any failings to be acknowledged and put right so that others do not suffer the same avoidable harm. Where such errors occur, patients and their families deserve to be met with a system which is open to complaints, supports them through the process and which delivers a timely apology, explanation and a determination to learn from mistakes.
The current system for complaints handling however, remains variable. Too many complaints are mishandled with people encountering poor communication or at worst, a defensive and complicated system which results in a complete breakdown in trust and a failure to improve patient safety.
The Committee welcomes the progress made since our last report but in this, our final report on complaints and concerns in this Parliament, we set out an overview of the developments and recommendations to date as well as those expected in 2015. We also make a number of recommendations where we feel further action is required.
As we aim to move to a culture which welcomes complaints as a way of improving NHS services, the number of complaints about a provider, rather than being an indicator of failure, may highlight a service which has developed a positive culture of complaints handling and it will be important for system and professional regulators alike to be able to identify the difference.
Complaint handling remains overly complex and we recommend a single gateway for raising complaints and concerns with clearer, adequately resourced arrangements for advocacy and support.
The removal of primary care complaints handling from local areas has resulted in a disconnection from local knowledge and learning and led to unacceptable delays. We recommend that this is rectified.
There is also a strong case for integrating complaints about health and social care under the same umbrella and this should start with a single rather than separate ombudsmen. There is now no excuse for any health or care organisations not to implement the recommendations of the 'My Expectations' report on first tier complaints as this has clearly set out a user led guide to best practice.
Just as we expect the NHS to respond in a timely, honest and open manner to patients or families raising complaints or concerns, we should expect the same for staff. The treatment of whistleblowers remains a stain on the reputation of the NHS and has led to unwarranted and inexcusable pain for a number of individuals. The treatment of those whistleblowers has not only caused them direct harm but has also undermined the willingness of others to come forward and this has ongoing implications for patient safety. Whilst this committee is clear that professionals have a duty to put patients first and to come forward with their concerns we recommend that those who have suffered harm as a result of doing so and whose actions are proven to have been vindicated, should be identified and receive an apology and practical redress.
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