Improve customer care in NHS

The Department has published a guide to help health and social care staff improve the way they respond to people who are unhappy about the service they have received.

Called, Listening, Responding, Improving: A guide to better customer care, the guide is part of new approach to dealing with complaints.

The current complaints systems are being reformed because many problems take too long to resolve, the processes are bureaucratic and services don't try to systematically learn from mistakes.

From 1 April 2009, there will be a single set of arrangements for dealing with complaints across NHS and adult social care. It will give organisations the flexibility they need to deal with complaints effectively. It will also encourage a culture that seeks and then uses people's experiences to improve care.

Organisations will also have to be more accountable. The new NHS Constitution makes clear what people should expect when they complain about their care. In the future, providers of care will also have to demonstrate to the Care Quality Commission that they investigate complaints effectively and learn lessons from them.

Over 90 health and social care organisations have already tested the new approach for dealing with complaints. The new guide is designed to help more organisations:

  • take a more proactive approach to asking for peoples views
  • deal with complaints more effectively
  • use the information received to learn and improve.

Additional advice sheets for complaints professionals have also been produced covering: investigating complaints, joint complaints that involve more than one organisation and dealing with serious complaints that have safety implications.

The law that governs how NHS and local authority adult social care services need to deal with complaints is also being simplified to provide a general framework, allowing a more personalised approach to complaints handling. The new regulations will be available to download from early March 2009 and will come into force on 1 April 2009.