Feedback on NHS organisations ‘valued and encouraged’

NHS sign

The latest publication by the Ombudsman is a welcome reminder that we must have an unwavering focus on handling complaints, the head of the NHS Confederation has said (29 October).

Positive and negative feedback about NHS organisations should be “equally valued and encouraged”, with patients confident that complaints will be dealt with promptly, effectively and appropriately.

Responding to publication of a number of Health Service Ombudsman investigations into NHS complaints, Rob Webster said it is vital that patients, their families and carers feel safe and able to feed back on their NHS care and treatment. 

“While both positive and negative feedback should be equally valued and encouraged, it is essential that we make every effort to learn from when things go wrong, and that NHS organisations deal with patients' concerns promptly, effectively and appropriately,” he said.

Complaints process

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has published (29 October) summaries of 126 investigations it has conducted into complaints against the NHS made between April and June this year.

It follows publication of a Public Administration Select Committee report on complaints handling in public services in April, and an ongoing Health Select Committee inquiry into the process within the NHS, launched in February 2014.

Both the NHS Confederation and NHS Employers organisation have provided written and oral evidence to the inquiry.

Handling complaints well

NHS Confederation chief executive Rob Webster explained that handling complaints well involves a 'golden thread' of activity: apologising, explaining what happened, and describing why it won’t happen again. “Healthcare is personal, and hearing “sorry” from someone who means it can be a major part of finding a successful resolution for patients and their families.”

‘Confusing’

The organisation has repeatedly called for the ‘confusing’ complaints system to be made clearer for patients, as the Health and Social Care Act 2012 has made the process more difficult for patients to navigate.

“The complexity of the new commissioning landscape and diverse range of providers in the health system since the reforms has made it more difficult for patients to understand where they need to go and who they need to talk to if they wish to raise a concern,’” the organisation said in written evidence to the Health Select Committee inquiry.

Serious issue for boards

Appearing before the Committee in July, the Confederation challenged the view that little has changed in the NHS regarding raising concerns, saying there have been improvements and that trust boards are taking the issue extremely seriously.

Culture

The organisation’s written evidence also stressed that effective feedback and complaints systems are integral parts of an open and transparent culture in the NHS.

“Complaints should be used as a mechanism that is central to an organisation’s wider focus of the quality of care and services it provides.”

Patient safety

It acknowledged that members need to do more to ensure the right processes are in place to ensure all patient feedback is listened to and acted on.

The submission added that the ‘Sign up to Safety’ campaign provides a further opportunity for staff to consider how they can do things differently to improve patient safety.

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