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New NHS complaints system to be trialled

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A new complaints system for the NHS and social care is set to begin trials next year, the government has announced.
Pilot schemes for the new system, which will be based around a two-stage process, will begin in 2009.

The new system will focus on local resolution, followed by an investigation by the health or local government ombudsman.

In the NHS it removes the second stage of the complaints process, which is currently handled by the Healthcare Commission, before referral to the ombudsman. In social care, there is currently a four-stage process.

Marcia Fry, the Healthcare Commission’s head of operational development, said: ‘We welcome and fully support the introduction of a new complaints system that will see more complaints resolved at a local level – we know that it is what patients want.’

Health minister Ann Keen said: ‘I know that people find the current complaints system confusing. Some may also avoid complaining because they feel too intimated or worry about damaging their relationship with their GP or social worker. This must change.’
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