NHS must take complaints on board
Published: 09 November 2012
Complaints about the NHS must be taken on board, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said complaints need to be made promptly and be properly investigated, while staff need to know and support the complaints processes which are in place.
His comments follow the release of a report by the Health Service Ombudsman said poor communication has led to an increase in complaints against the NHS in England.
Dr Carter said: "The NHS and its staff, in common with other large organisations, can make mistakes. Sadly, when mistakes are made in a health setting they can be particularly distressing for patients and their families. This report shows that too often those mistakes are compounded by the poor handling of complaints.
“Sometimes they’re simply ignored or dismissed, and other times the lessons are just not learned. The NHS as a whole needs to take on board complaints, just as it needs to heed its staff when they blow the whistle on poor care.”
He added that the increase may reflect a growing willingness to complain on the part of patients and relatives.
“The RCN believes that good communication is at the heart of good nursing. The RCN is playing its part to strengthen the communication between staff and patients by working with the Royal College of Physicians to improve ward rounds in acute hospitals, which can otherwise be a confusing experience and a lost opportunity for patients. The NHS as a whole needs to make a concerted effort not just to improve communication in general, but to systematically make improvements when things go wrong.”
The ombudsman received 16,333 complaints in 2011-12, and 4,399 were investigated – the others were withdrawn, or redirected to other organisations or to the NHS complaints system.