consultation on new streamlined health and social care complaints system
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
News Release (2007/0169) issued by The Government News Network on 18
The Department of
Health is today launching a consultation paper on a new approach
to dealing with complaints in health and social care which will
make it easier for people to complain when things go wrong.
It will make the whole experience of making a complaint easier,
more user-friendly, cooperative and much more responsive to
people's needs, involving an independent element where
required. And it emphasises that health and social care services
should routinely learn from complaints, feeding into service improvement.
Currently there are separate complaints procedures for health and
adult social care which make it particularly difficult for people
who use a combination of services to make a complaint or for those
services to respond. There are also different arrangements for
The different systems are not easy for people to understand and
are seen as lengthy and bureaucratic. Some people feel too
intimidated, or worried about the potential impact a complaint may
have on their relationship with their social worker or GP. As a
result people may choose not to complain, problems are not dealt
with and an opportunity for learning is lost.
Today's consultation document sets out a new more locally
focussed system, one where it is in the interests of health and
social care organisations to listen to people's experiences,
be more openly responsive and improve services accordingly.
The new unified health and social care arrangements aim
resolve complaints locally - there will be a more personal
and flexible approach to handling complaints;
ensure early and
effective resolution, and robust handling of all cases not just
those which are more complex;
make sure people with complaints
have access to effective support - this is particularly important
for people who find it difficult to make their views
give people the option of going direct to their primary
care trust with a complaint about their GP, instead of complaining
directly to the GP;
give people the option of going direct to
their local authority with a complaint where the care has been
arranged by the local authority;
ensure organisations improve
the services they provide by routinely learning from people's experiences.
With the emphasis on effective and robust resolution and with
independence available through the Ombudsmen, the additional
independent review of complaints handling, currently carried out
by the Healthcare Commission will no longer be necessary.
The Health Service Ombudsman considers complaints about poor
treatment or services provided through the NHS in England. She is
independent and impartial and her services are free.
Ann Abraham, Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman, and
Tony Redmond, Local Government Ombudsman said:
"The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the
Local Government Ombudsmen together welcome this commitment to
develop an integrated health and social care complaints approach.
It marks a significant step towards the delivery of a modern,
responsive, complaints system, aimed at improving services for all
patients and service users."
Health Minister, Lord Hunt said;
"The vast majority of people who use health and social care
services are happy with the care and treatment that they receive.
Where people do have a complaint we must make sure its as
straightforward as possible
"However, we know from recent research that people find the
current complaints procedures hard to understand which is why we
are consulting on a radical new unified approach across health and
social care. This streamlined approach will remove the need to
follow a rigid set of procedures in every case to enable more
open, flexible and responsive complaints handling.
"It makes sense for everyone to now use a more locally based
system for complaints, one that the public feel they can trust
because it is in health and social care providers' interests
to be more accountable to their local communities. At the same
time health and social care providers will be monitored to check
they are dealing with complaints satisfactorily.
"We have committed to implementing a single, comprehensive
complaints process across health and social care which better
reflects the way in which services are provided and people use
them. We recognise the problems with the current arrangements and
are determined to make sure that the new arrangements are simple,
effective and flexible to meet the needs of people using them. We
recognise that the people who rely most on services are often the
people least able to voice their concerns and are committed to
ensuring that in future their voice will be supported through a
right to advocacy. We want to ensure organisations takecomplaints
seriously and that the Boards within those organisations
understand both the benefit of dealing with complaints effectively
and the consequences if they don't. "
Paul Snell, Chief Inspector of CSCI said
"CSCI welcomes debate on a more coherent and better
integrated system of handling complaints across health and social
care. People who use services deserve a system that is easier to
use and more responsive to their needs and we look forward to
contributing to the consultation to achieve this."
Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said:
"We welcome and fully support any initiative that ensures
that patients and the public get quicker and local resolution to
their complaints - that iswhat they tell us they want. The
Commission has been highlighting this feedback for some time.
"It is therefore right to consider a system that requires
healthcare and social care organisations to handle complaints
better and with one, not two, independent appeals processes."
Primary care trusts and local authority social services, which
make arrangements locally for services to be provided, (service
commissioners), will have a major role to ensure that services
they commission have effective complaints processes in place and
are delivered to a high standard. Commissioners will also want to
see that the lessons learnt from complaints feed into continuous
improvement of the quality of services. This will include: putting
people at the centre of planning and designing the services they
commission; understanding the needs of populations and
individuals; and sharing and using information - such as from
complaints - more effectively.
The initial consultation will run for 4 months and close on 17th
October 2007. Following that, the Department of Health will
present a framework outlining the next steps. For further
information see: http://www.dh.gov.uk
Notes to editors
This consultation endorses the commitments
in 'Safeguarding Patients' the Government's
response to the Shipman Inquiry fifth report and the reports of
Ayling, Neale and Kerr/ Haslam.
It fulfils the commitment in "Our health our care our
say" to develop a single complaints system across health and
social care focussed on resolving complaints locally with a more
personal and comprehensive approach.
'Making things better?' a report on reform of the NHS
complaints procedure in England, by the Parliamentary and Health
Service Ombudsman describes some the problems caused by
fragmentation of complaints systems.
The Healthcare Commission's report 'Spotlight on
Complaints'identified a number of national and regional
trends regarding the local delivery and handling on complaints in health.