NHS needs complaints handling revolution

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NHS needs complaints handling revolution

An independent report out today chaired by Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP and Professor Tricia Hart calls for a revolution in the way in which the NHS handles complaints.

The report was commissioned by the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt, after the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust were highlighted by Robert Francis earlier this year. Robert Francis QC highlighted that complaints are a warning sign of problems in a hospital.

The review received 2,500 responses describing poor care and a lack of compassion and deep dissatisfaction with the way in which their complaints had been handled. The review panel also heard from people who had not complained because they felt the process was too confusing or they feared for their future care. Many were also concerned about the lack of independence in the current system.

The recommendations aim to improve the quality of care, address the causes of complaints, improve access and responsiveness of the complaints system, and ensure that hospitals adopt an entirely new attitude to complaints – as well as whistleblowing.

The review reflects on a “decade of failure” to reform the way in which complaints are handled, and demands urgent action in the next 12 months. To ensure there is real change as a result of the review, the review has taken the unusual step of securing undertakings from key health organisations to ensure that action will be taken within the next year.

The three main drivers for change will be:  1. Consumer power – Consumer and patient bodies have agreed to work together locally and nationally to oversee and monitor implementation of the recommendations.

2. Championing complaints reform – Mike Richards, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals, is making complaints a central part of CQC inspections of hospitals. He will develop standards for the handling of complaints by NHS organisations, ensure inspectors’ judgements are fully informed by what people say about the quality of care in a hospital, and publish his findings on complaints across hospitals in a year’s time.

3. Concrete commitments from major NHS players – 12 organisations including the Royal College of Nursing, Health Education England, the General Medical Council, Monitor, CQC and NHS England have together signed up to nearly 30 actions to help improve the complaints culture across the NHS. For example, new guidance for nurses and reviewing training and education on complaints handling.

Ann Clwyd MP said:

“ When I made public the circumstances of my own husband’s death last year, I was shocked by the deluge of correspondence from people whose experience of hospitals was heart-breaking. It made me determined to do my best to get change in the system. “ We have given patients and their families a voice in this report, and their message to the NHS on complaints is clear. The days of delay, deny, and defend must end, and hospitals must become open, learning organisations. Our proposals put patients firmly into the driving seat at every level as never before, and we now expect to see progress within 12 months’ time.”

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