At present, standards of complaints handling are judged on the basis of the 2009 regulations and the Health Service Ombudsman’s Principles of Good Complaints Handling. While both of these remain important, a more formal statement of standards is likely to be of benefit to the NHS, whether complaints managers and Trust Boards at local level, or regulators.
The Review of the Handling of Complaints in NHS Hospitals recommends that:
- Commissioners and regulators establish clear standards for hospitals on complaints handling. These should rank highly in the audit and assessment of the performance of all hospitals.
The government has asked the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and Healthwatch England, working with the Department of Health, to develop a patient-led vision and expectations for complaints handling in the NHS. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, Healthwatch England and the Department of Health will work with the Patients Association, patients, regulators, commissioners and providers to develop universal expectations for complaints handling. These will be used across the NHS to drive improvements in patient satisfaction with complaint handling. The vision and expectations will inform:
- patients about what to expect when they make a complaint about NHS services
- the work of the Healthwatch network in challenging local providers to improve their practices
- providers and commissioning bodies about what they can do to use patient concerns and complaints to improve services and how they can measure their own progress
- regulatory assessment of hospital complaint handling
- the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigation of complaints about NHS services brought to them by patients and their families.
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, working with Healthwatch England and the Local Government Ombudsman, published universal expectations for raising concerns and complaints to support improvements in complaint handling in November 2014. The user led vision and expectations represent a comprehensive guide to how a good experience of raising a concern or complaint should look and feel.
For the person who has raised a concern or complaint, the ultimate vision is for them to be able to describe their experience as: “I felt confident to speak up and making my complaint was simple; I felt listened to and understood; I felt that my complaint made a difference.” The expectations provide a tangible way to measure the extent to which the expectations of users of health and social care services are being met through the complaints arrangements.
This work will inform the Care Quality Commission inspections to help to assess to what extent the service is responsive.