Healthwatch England publishes report about NHS complaints

Healthwatch England’s new report, Shifting the mindset (2020), investigates how hospitals report on complaints and whether current efforts are sufficient to build public trust.
Report NHS Complaints

The public expects the NHS to learn from mistakes, and to be kept informed about how these changes are made. Four in five people have told us that seeing where other people’s complaints have made a difference would encourage them to speak up. Yet fewer than half of NHS hospitals in England (38%) are reporting on any action taken in response to complaints raised by patients and loved ones.

Complaints are a valuable tool which help hospitals spot and tackle issues quickly. They should not be seen by hospitals as something to ‘be managed’, but as an opportunity to learn and improve. To have a complaints system that works, the NHS must give patients the confidence to speak up by showing them how their views are heard and acted upon.

Key findings:

Local reporting on complaints is inconsistent and inaccessible

  • All hospital trusts are reporting to NHS Digital on the numbers of complaints they receive; however, only a minority of trusts report any more meaningful data at a local level.
  • Our analysis shows just 1 in 8 hospitals trusts (12%) are demonstrating that they are compliant with the statutory regulations when it comes reporting on complaints.

Staff are not empowered to communicate with the public on complaints

  • All hospitals must produce an annual statutory complaints report but they are only required to make it available to people upon request. Yet we found that hospital complaints staff were often not aware of the reports or who could access them.

Reporting focuses on counting complaints, not demonstrating learning

  • Only 38% of trusts make public any information on the changes they’ve made in response to complaints.
  • Much of this reporting is still only high-level, telling us little detail about what has changed and only stating that “improvements were made”.

You can download and read the report on the Healthwatch England website.

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