Patients To Get Bedside Complaints Guide

New Information To Be Provided In Wards

09.07.2014

Patients who are unhappy with their medical care in hospitals are to receive more information on how to make a complaint.

Health minister Dr Dan Poulter has told MPs the new guide for patients - which should be available "very soon" - will be very simple, easy to understand and make it clear to patients that they are perfectly within their rights to raise concerns if they have a problem.

Addressing the House of Commons Health Select Committee, he explained that a "number" of elements of a new complaints system are being put together by the Department of Health and everything should be in place by March next year.

Noting that aiding the awareness of patients is one of these, he said: "Historically this has been an area of complexity and we are looking at publishing fairly soon a bedside guide about how we can better help patients to understand and navigate the system in a much simpler way."

He suggested this would remove the past gulf between the outcomes for those who do not know how to complain and those who manage to do so through being "tenacious" about airing their grievance.

"It is about making it very clear that it is something that is a normal and acceptable part of being a patient," Dr Poulter emphasised.

The pledges made by the minister follow extensive criticism inside both parliament and the NHS of the current system.

Last year a government-commissioned inquiry led by Labour MP Ann Clwyd found the present system was unclear and failed to respond to concerns, while Healthwatch England described the system for making a complaint in England as "hopelessly complicated".

According to the NHS constitution, patients have a right to have their complaints dealt with in an efficient way and be properly investigated, as well as knowing the outcome of any probe.

In addition to this, patients who are not satisfied with the response can take the matter up with the parliamentary and health service ombudsman and make a claim for a judicial review in the event of any allegation that an unlawful act has taken place.

Expert Opinion
Through our work, we see numerous cases when people have suffered as a result of failings which could and should have been identified and, ultimately, avoided. Sadly, this can include instances when people have not spoken out on matters until it is simply too late.

"The only way that both patient safety and the quality of care can improve is if lessons can be learned from the mistakes made in the past.

"This is why it is so important that patients are encouraged to speak out on problems – it is the only way that the NHS and its service can evolve for the better."
Mandy Luckman, Partner