This procedure sets out the Practice’s approach to the handling of complaints and is intended as an internal guide which should be made readily available to all staff.
From 1st April 2009 a common approach to the handling of complaints was introduced across health and adult social care. This procedure complies with this.
The Practice will take reasonable steps to ensure that patients are aware of:
- the role of the Primary Care Practice, NHS England and other bodies in relation to complaints about services under the contract. This includes the ability of the patient to complain directly to NHS England and to escalate to the Ombudsman
- their right to assistance with any complaint from independent advocacy services
The principal method of achieving this is the Complaints Patient Information Leaflet [*], the Practice Leaflet and website incorporation.
The Complaints Manager for the Practice is the Practice Manager
Receiving of complaints
The Practice may receive a complaint made by, or (with his/her consent) on behalf of a patient, or former patient, who is receiving or has received treatment at the Practice, or:
(a) where the patient is a child:
- by either parent, or in the absence of both parents, the guardian or other adult who has care of the child;
- by a person duly authorised by a local authority to whose care the child has been committed under the provisions of the Children Act 1989;
- by a person duly authorised by a voluntary organisation by which the child is being accommodated
(b) where the patient is incapable of making a complaint, by a relative or other adult who has an interest in his/her welfare.
All complaints, written and verbal will be recorded, and written complaints will be acknowledged in writing within 3 working days of receipt. Patients will be encouraged to complain in writing where possible.
1 Period within which complaints can be made
The period for making a complaint is normally:
(a) 12 months from the date on which the event which is the subject of the complaint occurred; or
(b) 12 months from the date on which the event which is the subject of the complaint comes to the complainant's notice.
Complaints should normally be resolved within 6 months. The practice standard will be 25 days for a full investigation.
The Complaints Manager or lead GP has the discretion to extend the time limits if the complainant has good reason for not making the complaint sooner, or where it is still possible to properly investigate the complaint despite extended delay.
When considering an extension to the time limit it is important that the Complaints Manager or the GP takes into consideration that the passage of time may prevent an accurate recollection of events by the clinician concerned or by the person bringing the complaint. The collection of evidence, Clinical Guidelines or other resources relating to the time when the complaint event arose may also be difficult to establish or obtain. These factors may be considered as suitable reason for declining a time limit extension.
Action upon receipt of a complaint
Complaints may be received either verbally or in writing and must be forwarded to the Complaints Manager (or the lead GP if the Complaints Manager is unavailable), who must:
- acknowledge in writing within the period of 3 working days beginning with the day on which the complaint was made or, where that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable. Include an offer to discuss the matter in person. Advise the patient of potential timescales and the next steps;
- ensure the complaint is properly investigated. Where the complaint involves more than one organisation the Complaints Manager will liaise with his / her counterpart to agree responsibilities and ensure that one coordinated response is sent;
- Where the complaint has been sent to the incorrect organisation, advise the patient within 3 working days and ask them if they want it to be forwarded on. If it is sent on, advise the patient of the full contact details;
- provide a written response to the patient as soon as reasonably practicable ensuring that the patient is kept up to date with progress as appropriate. This will include a full report and a statement advising them of their right to take the matter to NHS England or the Ombudsman if required.
Where a complainant becomes aggressive or, despite effective complaint handling, unreasonable in their promotion of the complaint, some or all of the following formal provisions will apply and will be communicated to the patient:
- The complaint will be managed by one named individual at senior level who will be the only contact for the patient
- Contact will be limited to one method only (e.g. in writing)
- Place a time limit on each contact
- The number of contacts in a time period will be restricted
- A witness will be present for all contacts
- Repeated complaints about the same issue will be refused (and may be considered vexacious, in which case the Practice will refer to appendix B of the complaints procedure, adapted for use within General Practice)
- Only acknowledge correspondence regarding a closed matter, not respond to it
- Set behaviour standards
- Return irrelevant documentation
- Keep detailed records
This will include:
- A clear statement of the issues, investigations and the findings, giving clear evidence-based reasons for decisions if appropriate
- Where errors have occurred, explain these fully and state what will be done to put these right, or prevent repetition
- A focus on fair and proportionate the outcomes for the patient, including any remedial action or compensation
- A clear statement that the response is the final one, or that further action or reports will be send later
- An apology or explanation as appropriate
- A statement of the right to escalate the complaint, together with the relevant contact detail
Annual Review of Complaints
The practice will establish an annual complaints report, incorporating a review of complaints received, along with any learning issues or changes to procedures which have arisen. This report is to be made available to any person who requests it, and may form part of the Freedom of Information Act Publication Scheme.
This will include:
- Statistics on the number of complaints received
- Justified / unjustified analysis
- Known referrals to the Ombudsman
- Subject matter / categorisation / clinical care
- Learning points
- Methods of complaints management
- Any changes to procedure, policies or care which have resulted
All complaints must be treated in the strictest confidence
Where the investigation of the complaint requires consideration of the patient's medical records, the Complaints Manager must inform the patient or person acting on his/her behalf if the investigation will involve disclosure of information contained in those records to a person other than the Practice or an employee of the Practice.
The practice must keep a record of all complaints and copies of all correspondence relating to complaints, but such records must be kept separate from patients' medical records.
Complaint Form [*]
Complaints Brochure (Patient information) [*]
Complaints Consent Form – third party [*]
Help on Dealing with Complaints: How to Get It Right First Time
The people who use our services understand that mistakes sometimes happen. When something goes wrong, often all the affected person wants to know is how it happened, that the Practice is sorry, and what steps will be taken to prevent it from happening again.
The initial contact we have with a person who is unhappy about our service is key. It is crucial to obtain all the information that will allow the Practice to assess someone’s concerns correctly, resolve them quickly and build a good ongoing relationship with them.
Things to remember to do when someone says they are unhappy:
Ask the person how they would like to be addressed – as Mr, Mrs, Ms or by their first name.
- If someone has phoned you, offer to call them back and give them the chance to meet face to face to discuss the issue.
- Ask them how they wish to be kept informed about how their complaint is being dealt with – by phone, letter, email or through a third party such as an advocacy or support service.
- If they say by phone, ask them for times when it is convenient to call and check that they are happy for messages to be left on their answer phone.
- If they say by post, make sure that they are happy to receive correspondence at the address given.
- Check if the person has any disabilities or circumstances you need to take account of (for example, do they require wheelchair access, or are they on medication that can make them drowsy?).
- Offer to meet the person at a location convenient to them.
- Make the person aware that they can request an advocate to support them throughout the complaints process, including at the first meeting.
- Systematically go through the reasons for the complaint with the person who is unhappy – it is important that you understand why they are dissatisfied.
- Ask them what they would like to happen as a result of the complaint (for example, an apology, new appointment, reimbursement for costs or loss of personal belongings or an explanation). Tell them at the outset if their expectations are not feasible or realistic.
- Agree a plan of action, including when and how the person complaining will hear back from the Practice.
- If you think you can resolve the matter quickly without further investigation do so as long as the person complaining is happy with that and there is no risk to other service users.
- For any complaint, remember to:
- check if consent is needed to access someone’s personal records, and
let the complainant know the name and contact details of the manager who will investigate their complaint
Dudley PCT Complaints Procedure ratified October 2006