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Review of how Welsh NHS handles complaints published

The Welsh NHS needs to view complaints about patient care as a gift and an opportunity for improving services, an independent review said.


Health Minister Mark Drakeford commissioned Keith Evans, the former chief executive and managing director of Panasonic UK and Ireland, to lead the review which makes more than 100 recommendations to strengthen the NHS complaints process, including:

  • Improved visibility and promotion of how patients and families can make a complaint. The report found it can be difficult to find out where to start when considering making a complaint;
  • It concludes Putting Things Right - the complaints system introduced in 2011 - is sound, but it is variable across NHS organisations;
  • A change in culture is needed so the NHS can genuinely learn from people who have had difficult experiences, including ensuring a ‘no blame culture’ is developed at all levels so lessons can be learned;
  • Improve the infrastructure to accommodate the current levels of complaints;
  • Increase the profile of the analysis of incidents and complaints at board level in the NHS so the information can be used to improve services;
  • Develop the complaints champions at board and executive level to strengthen support services.

The report also suggests developing a national approach to dealing with concerns in some instances. This includes ways to bring more independence into the process for more serious complaints.

Keith Evans said:

“This review acknowledges the commitment of many NHS organisations and members of staff in delivering high quality service.  However, it also clearly indicates there are instances where services simply do not provide the levels of professionalism users should expect from the NHS.  

“Everyone has a role to play in making the NHS a better place for those of us having to avail ourselves of its services.

“Executives and senior staff in all areas must lead the required change from the front and by good example. Furthermore, whatever job someone has in the NHS, they should think of themselves wearing their patients’ shoes and put themselves in their position at all times. Doing so will quickly reveal the daily issues of what is going right and wrong.  

“It is also very important that organisations and individuals learn how to not be defensive but to listen to NHS users concerns and complaints, analyse them, and reflect the findings into the workplace quickly and efficiently for the betterment of all."

Professor Drakeford said:

“Patients in Wales come into contact with the NHS tens of millions of times every year. Taking these numbers into account, it’s not surprising there will be some times when patients or their families feel dissatisfied with their care. Despite this, complaints received by the NHS tend to represent less than 0.1% of all activity.

“For the small minority who experience care that isn’t of the highest quality, those complaints need to be taken seriously and acted upon. When things do go wrong the right mechanisms need to be in place to address any concerns.

“I welcome the review’s recommendations. It points out that the NHS needs to continue to be open and accept feedback from patients as a gift which should be acted on and used to improve care. This is about culture as much as it is about resources. We need to do all we can to allow patients to put forward their concerns effectively and simply. At the same time we must not create a climate where staff feel under siege, as this report has found.

“The report indicates some organisations are not always open and this leads to needless and repetitive complaints. This needs to change and staff must be empowered to deal with concerns quickly and at source. There are examples of this approach in the report, but this needs to become the norm across the Welsh NHS.”

The NHS, its partner organisations, including community health councils, other interested bodies and the public will have the opportunity to contribute their views on the review and its more wide-ranging recommendations, such as whether a national approach to complaints is needed, over the summer months.

The Welsh Government will set out its formal response to the review in the autumn following this period of wider engagement.


Review of concerns (complaints) handling within NHS Wales – 'Using the gift of complaints'

Channel website: http://gov.wales

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