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Complaints in Primary Care

Dr Kieran MullanDr Kieran Mullan

News and presentations from todays conference focusing on Handling, Investigating, Resolving and Learning from Complaints in Primary Care, chaired by Lee Bennett Head of Patient Experience (Complaints, Quality Assurance and Staff) at NHS England.

Learning from the Ombudsman Report into complaints handling in General Practice: How do we ensure change at a local level by Dr Telal Mudawi Consultant Interventional Cardiologist, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, and Clinical Adviser, Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Manchester.

In his presentation Dr Mudawi made the following comments; 

The way to handle complaints is to prevent them in the first place

Unhappiness isn’t always to do with the reason for the complaint but the way the complaint is handled

Few people complain for financial compensation but rather are after acknowledgement of the mistake made and a genuine apology

The number of complaints are rising year on year

Empathy is key to reducing complaints. Being empathetic can reduce fears/worries and result in a patient feeling they have received better care.

Acknowledge a complaint immediately but you don not have to respond immediately.  There is no longer a timeframe to respond by.  You do not need to rush if more time for investigation is needed.

Nothing worse than a false apology – a patient will see straight through it

Pre-conference abstract:

This talk discusses the NHS complaints with some insight. Complaints are generally a late sign of patients’ unhappiness and there are often many things that health professionals can and should do to reduce or even prevent complaints. Contrary to the commonly held belief, very few patients complain and most of them don’t seek financial compensation. The majority of complaints arise because of poor communication and a few because of perceived or actual poor care.

The talk discusses the current NHS complaint handling system and the latest relevant complaint statistical figures. It also discusses the main complaint-provoking factors and what complainants really want their complaints to achieve.

Good and safe patient care directly stems from good clinical leadership that inspires a culture of openness and transparency. This, together with good clinical governance systems and effective communication skills are paramount pre-requisites for reducing and properly managing complaints. Regularly conducting patient satisfaction surveys can provide useful information as to why patients might feel unhappy with their care. Complaints should be viewed as an opportunity to identify shortcomings in the care that we provide to our patients so that deficiencies can be identified and rectified, thereby ultimately leading to care quality improvement. Such a reflective approach toward complaints is essential in driving the required change in culture and practice so that similar complaints can be avoided in the future.

The talk also dwells into how to effectively manage complaints in a positive and constructive way that benefits the complainants, the NHS professionals and the public at large. Emphasis is put on what to do and what not do when managing a complaint, supported by real life examples.

Dr Telal Mudawi PowerPoint presentation.

Improving your local complaints process: Setting the standard for complaints handling in your service by Dr Keiran Mullan Independent Advisor to the Clwyd Review of NHS Complaints and Past Project Director for the Complaints Improvement Programme at The Patients Association.

In his presentation Dr Mullan remarked;

Miscommunication can often lead to complaints

Having a procedure/system in place can minimize complaints

Peer review process looks at individual cases

Complaints handling needs to be measured properly

Biggest challenge is that there are different accounts of what occurred

Seek further individual opinions

A good plan for dealing with a complaint is required for a good outcome

Lack of investigation will result in a poor response

Dr Kieran Mullan PowerPoint presentation.

Supporting patients who complain by Marie Casey CEO SEAP Support Empower Advocate Promote

In her presentation Marie commented;

Advocates are to help people say what they want to say

It s never too late for an advocate to get involved

Always try to “sell” the advocacy service to the complainant

Making people feel validated helps

The threat of deregistration from their practice puts patients off complaining

It is important to focus on the outcome – know what the complainant wants to achieve. It is often just to ensure that it doesn’t happen to someone else

Marie Casey PowerPoint presentation.

Future events of interest: 

Root Cause Analysis: 2 Day Intensive Training Course
Thursday 1 December — Friday 2 December 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

Complaints Handling, Investigating, Resolving and Learning for Clinicians and Managers in Health and Social Care
Friday 2 December 
Hallam Conference Centre, London

20 October 2016


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