Review Calls For ‘Revolution In Complaint Handling’

Review Calls For ‘Revolution In Complaint Handling’

28.10.2013

A government inquiry has found the current NHS complaints system confusing and unresponsive and has given a year’s notice to improve accountability and transparency.

The review, led by Labour MP Ann Clwyd was commissioned by the government after the public inquiry into the Stafford Hospital scandal.

It was announced today (28 October) that 12 organisations have signed up to a series of pledges in a bid to improve the way the health service handles complaints.

These include:
• The Nursing and Midwifery Council to include new duties over complaints handling in its code of conduct;
• A pledge from Health Education England to develop an e-learning course to improve training;
• NHS England promising to work with local managers to hold hospitals and other providers to account;
• The Care Quality Commission to place a strong focus on complaints in its new hospital inspection regime;
• Hospitals will also be expected to publish annual reports in "plain English" on complaints.
The report called for a revolution in complaints handling and concluded there had been a "decade of failure".

It also said relatively simple measures, such as providing patients with paper and a pen beside their beds and displaying the names of staff on duty, could also help.

However Peter Walsh, of Action Against Medical Accidents, has questioned the Government’s commitment to the issue and pointed out that the duty of candour called for after the Stafford Hospital scandal appears to be being watered down.

The public inquiry suggested this should become a legally enforceable duty, but latest plans suggest this will only be applied to the most serious cases of harm.

Expert Opinion
No one can deny that human error is sometimes inevitable but when mistakes are made, all those responsible need to hold their hands up and explain why this was the case so measures can be put in place to prevent the same mistake being made again.

“Following the Francis Report into the Mid-Staffs scandal we hoped the lasting legacy of the Public Inquiry would be enough to enforce a duty of candour throughout all levels of the NHS.

“However, we are disappointed to learn that this duty will only apply to NHS Trusts, rather than individual members of staff and will only cover incidents which caused death or the most severe cases of harm.

“We are concerned that this will mean thousands of errors will slip unnoticed through the net, despite still having a devastating impact on a patient’s life.

“We believe each member of NHS staff, at whatever level they work, should have a duty to disclose details of any error that has negative consequences for the patient to it can become a vital learning tool.

“Clients often contact us desperate for answers about what has happened in theirs or a loved one’s care and legal action is rarely about the money. Enforcing a duty of candour to all would ensure this information is much more visible and will help create a safer NHS for all.”
Lisa Jordan, Partner