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NHS complaints system 'too complicated'

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The NHS complaints system is too complicated, lengthy and difficult to navigate for users of health services, according to a report.

Lessons are not shared and there is little evidence that services are improving as a result, the National Audit Office said.
The NHS received 133,600 complaints and social care received 17,100 care complaints in 2006-07.

Two thirds of complainants received no help navigating the system and around 95% of complaints concluded locally and three quarters of these concluded within 20-25 working days.

On average it took 171 days to progress to the second, independent review stage by the Healthcare Commission and social care took an average of 64 working days.

Tim Burr, head of national audit office, said: ‘The complaints systems for health and social care are not yet as accessible and responsive as they could be.

‘There is a lack of learning from complaints, and providers are not making clear to users that services are being improved as result.

‘Adequate staff training; proper tackling of complaints; and evidence of improvements in response to complaints are key pointers for the planned introduction of a new comprehensive complaints system across health and social care next year.’

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