Making the most of complaints

17/04/2009

Why?

When someone says they are unhappy with their care, some services are good at putting things right quickly and learning from the complaint, but some are not.

What's changing?

Services will be encouraged to use their own initiative to resolve straightforward complaints quickly, to focus on the needs of the individual case and to learn from mistakes made.

How will this be done?

The law will change to give services more flexibility but also to make them more accountable.

The new approach will mean:

• instead of having a set timescale and process for all complaints, services and the complainant will discuss the right approach for each case

• NHS patients will be able to complain to either the commissioner or provider of a service

• managers will have to explain to complainants any action taken to learn from mistakes

• organisations will have to appoint a senior person to oversee complaints and the lessons learnt from them

• organisations will have to produce an annual report highlighting the lessons learnt from complaints.

Best practice is also being shared to help services improve customer care.

NHS and social care organisations across England have been testing the new approach. Gemma Seymour, a manager for Hampshire Partnership NHS Trust, explains more:

'When someone says they are unhappy, we look at it as an opportunity to improve our service.

'We don't get bogged down in a complaints process that can make us seem distant. Instead, we focus on understanding the situation through the complainant's eyes, finding out what they would ideally like to happen and explaining what we can realistically do.

'We involve the complainant every step of the way and aim to get the best outcome for everyone involved.'