Ombudsmen lead drive for consistent NHS and care complaint handling

20 Nov 14
Public service ombudsmen today launched a drive to improve the consistency of complaint handling across NHS and social care services in response to the care failings at the Mid Staffordshire hospital trust.

By Richard Johnstone | 20 November 2014

Public service ombudsmen today launched a drive to improve the consistency of complaint handling across NHS and social care services in response to the care failings at the Mid Staffordshire hospital trust.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, the Local Government Ombudsman and Healthwatch England today published a report setting out what service users want from complaint-handling procedures.

The My expectations for raising concerns and complaints describes people's views of how good complaint handling operates, including knowing individuals have a right to complain, where to complain, and being kept informed.

It is intended that health and social care providers, from GP surgeries to hospitals and residential care homes in England, will be able to use the conclusions to help improve complaint handling, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Julie Mellor said.

Publishing the report one year after the Department of Health's Hard Truths report following the failings at the Mid Staffordshire trust, Mellor said patients and service users' expectations and experiences of raising a concerns could now be used to drive improvements.

The guidance takes the form of a number of ‘I statements’ which state how patients complaints will be handled, she added.

‘Ultimately we want all patients and service users to be able to say: “I felt confident to speak up and making my complaint was simple. I felt listened to and understood. I feel that my complaint made a difference”.

‘We will now work with regulators, commissioners and providers to develop measurement tools to establish areas they need to improve, take actions to get there and see if they have succeeded in delivering an experience the public say is better.’

Local Government Ombudsman Jane Martin said the report had been written with the involvement of care users and patients.

‘It is also provides a framework that is relevant across health and social care, which is vital as the two sectors become increasingly integrated,’ she added.

Responding to the report, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said Mid Staffs was a turning point for the NHS.

‘It is now more transparent than ever before, but we know patient feedback is essential so mistakes are not repeated. I welcome this work that will help improve the complaints procedure.’

David Behan, Care Quality Commission chief executive, said that the health service must use complaints as an opportunity to improve and respond to complaints openly and honestly.

‘These expectations for complaints handling published today are consistent with the good practice we look for,’ he added.

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