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Complaints management: learning from the CQC inspections of hospitals

Sarah Bickerstaffe Strategy Lead at The Care Quality Commission spoke at today’s NHS Complaints conference on the role of compalints in CQC’s regulatory model and learning from inspections to develop standards for the handling of complaints.

In her presentation Sarah discussed that the CQC looks at how people’s concerns and complaints are listened and responded to and used to improve the quality of care, by considering:

1.    Do people who use the service know how to make a complaint or raise concerns, are they encouraged to do so, and are they confident to speak up? 
2.    How easy is the system to use? Are people treated compassionately and given the help and support they need to make a complaint? 
3.    Are complaints handled effectively and confidentially, with regular updates and a formal record? 
4.    Is the outcome explained appropriately to the individual? Is there openness, transparency about how complaints and concerns are dealt with?   How are lessons learned, shared with others and is action taken as a result of investigations when things go wrong?

So far very early indications from inspections show;

•    Commitment to improve complaints handling
•    Variation but good practice examples
•    Willingness to encourage raising of concerns
•    Need for improved information and support for complainants
•    Lack of ongoing complaints and investigation training
•    Boards discussing themes, trends and patient stories 
•    Complaints reports generally shared internally and externally 
•    Organisational learning from complaints hard to evidence

Sarah made the following comments;

"There is a growing under standing that people want an explanation of what’s gone wrong and how it is going to be improved – its not about retribution 

Every complaint is an opportunity for us to understand what is going on in that service and what needs to be improved 

The CQC across all sectors ask is it safe, is it effective, is it caring, is it responsive and is it well led? – we have integrated complaints into these domains. 

With is it responsive we have a key line of enquiry to look at how complaints are handled and resolved. – we don’t have a rating for complaints but this is included in the overall rating for responsiveness. 

We have been working with a number of providers and organisation to develop an approach to complaints

We are using intelligence from complaints to understand quality and looking at how well providers handle Complaint’s 

The Chief Inspectors report with be published in December 2014 on Complaints 

Lots of boards have been looking at complaints and learning from patient stories – patients are being invited to the board meeting to tell there stories." 

Sarah’s full presentation is available for download at the end of this page.

Forthcoming conferences of interest:

CQC Inspections in Mental Health & Community Care
Monday 22 September 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Demonstrating Effectiveness
Tuesday 25 November 
ICO Conference Centre, London

Monitoring & Improving Patient Safety
Thursday 11 December 
ICO Conference Centre, London

Preparing for & learning from the new CQC Inspections in Independent Healthcare
Monday 19 January 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Measuring and Monitoring Quality
Tuesday 20 January 
ICO Conference Centre, London


Download: Sarah Bickerstaffe full presentation

18 September 2014


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