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Ensuring the process of complaints is integral to the psychological well being of the patient/carer

Carolyn Cleveland Independent Speaker spoke at today’s NHS Complaints conference on Ensuring the process of complaints is integral to the psychological well being of the patient/carer including;

• The reality of the complaints procedure – Why it is so important
• Is something being missed?
• Is there a different way?

Abstract of Carolyn’s talk

19th September 2003
“One of the common preconceptions I am met with about what I am doing in challenging the hospital is that the emotion fuelling my motivation is vengeance: That I am an angry complainant. However that does not equate to the feelings I have. For my motivation is that of maternal love, torment and concern for a special life of a child; a life that I cherished while nothing appeared to be done. I am driven by this violent clash in my mind of all that I witnessed conflicting with the clinicians actions, which are not only not being questioned, but in fact, are being treated as if their actions, or lack of,  was ok.
How can I not say anything?
How can I stay silent?
If I stay silent, how will I ever stay sane?”
Carolyn Cleveland (2003)

This presentation will primarily focus on a real life experience of the complaints system, using a personal narrative, bringing attention onto the fact that whilst individuals and their lives should be the central component in this process, they are so often not and to prevent this, the system can demonstrate sometimes brutal defence mechanisms. In the current system, so often, despite comprehensive procedures and protocols constantly being revised the patient/carer is invisible and their emotions and  future psychological well being is given little attention or credence. Not to mention that of the clinician.

Drawing not only on experience but extensive understanding of the vulnerable human being this presentation will question that handling such issues without effective empathy and attention to human lives is a vision that does not allow the complaints system to operate on any level that attends to the  psychological well being of those involved . 

In her presentation Carolyn said; “Skills of genuine positive regard and empathy, associated with more psychological practices, need to be understood by all staff dealing with complaints and the psychological well being of other people. Emotion needs to be accepted as the starting point of our reactions and subsequent actions and be not only be given credence, but value and respect as a human ability that may help to unlock many a soundproof door and break down many a wall.”

On her own experience Carolyn commented; “On top of knowing what I had seen, heard and witnessed, information could be omitted about her time in hospital and judgements could be made, and then changed, about the validity of our relationship. Most sadly, it appeared that the technicalities of our relationship were more important that the care and death of a 15 year old girl!”

Carolyn’s PowerPoint presentation is available for download at the end of this page.

Carolyn Cleveland BSc (hons) In February 2003, Carolyn found herself in a position of having to investigate, challenge and battle with an NHS hospital Trust in order to gain a truthful representation of what she had witnessed. She soon realized that the complaints procedure was a formidable force to take on. She found that all humanity was swept away, along with the events that occurred. 

Part of Carolyn’s background is within the context of counselling and psychological development, having worked with MIND. Most importantly however, Carolyn found this self development and understanding invaluable to enable her to be able to adapt an analytical approach to her own emotional reactions within the complexity and aftermath of her experiences and particularly with the Trust. 
Carolyn altered her degree path to include: Communications in Health and Social Care, Personal Lives and Social Policy, Philosophy and Counselling Fear and Sadness.  

She has spoken for POhWER ICAS (Independent Complaints Advocacy Service) training advocates and AGM’s and many Healthcare Conference events reaching audiences of medical and legal professionals and Government officials. She has worked on a research project with Bradford and Leeds Medical Training facility using her personal narrative to train FY1 Doctors. The publication ‘Patients as teachers – to raise awareness of patient safety for doctors training’, which her narrative contributed to, is soon to be published in the British Medical Journal Quality and Safety. Last year Carolyn started working for Healthcare Conferences UK, following her association with them since 2006 and enjoys being involved with an organization so committed to improving practice and healthcare..

Through her honest account of her own in-depth personal record of the complaints system, Carolyn is able to offer greater insight for all those working within the NHS complaints system of the emotional and psychological impact. Her unique set of circumstances, highlights the complexities of the human situation that the existing complaints procedure constantly fails to address but can be recognised in many scenarios. 

She believes that instead of running away from the ‘emotion’ - the human response - organisations and individuals would be better to try and embrace the whole picture and allow themselves to be more informed of another’s needs.  As a result, be better equipped to meet the those needs , therefore protecting and looking after the psychological well being of all those left vulnerable within the complaints system:

Future conferences of interest:

Implementing the Named Responsible Doctor and Nurse in Hospital
Friday 3 October 
ICO Conference Centre

Patient Experience Insight: Demonstrating Responsiveness to Feedback
Tuesday 7 October 
Hallam Conference Centre

Root Cause Analysis: 2 Day Intensive Training Course
Tuesday 25 November — Wednesday 26 November 
Hallam Conference Centre

Download: Carolyn Cleveland full presentation

18 September 2014


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