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RCN to draw up guidance on complaints handling for nurses


The Royal College of Nursing has pledged to produce guidance for nurses on dealing with complaints from patients, as part of its response to a major review.

An independent report on the way the NHS handles complaints was published yesterday. Making a raft of recommendations, the report called for a “revolution” in the way in which the NHS handles complaints.

It is the result of a review chaired by Ann Clwyd, Labour MP for Cynon Valley, and Professor Tricia Hart, chief executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and a former nurse.

They took the unusual step of securing undertakings from key health organisations to ensure that action will be taken within the next year.

For example, 12 organisations including the RCN, have jointly signed up to nearly 30 actions to help improve the complaints culture across the NHS.

The report states that, for its action, the RCN has agreed to produce a short guide/advice sheet for nurses by spring 2014.

College chief executive and general secretary Pewter Carter said: “The RCN welcomes the opportunity to help promote a more open, accessible and timely feedback system by pledging to produce guidance for nursing staff to help them deal with complaints sensitively and thoroughly.

“One instance of poor care is one instance too many, and everyone in the health service from the highest levels of management to frontline staff must now act on this report to create a culture where staff, patients and relatives do not feel helpless when things go wrong,” he said.

Dr Carter highlighted that “culture in a hospital or trust has a real impact on the quality of patient care”.

He added: “This report makes it clear that managers have a responsibility to show leadership in creating an environment where complaints are regarded as a valuable tool to address poor practice and make changes.

“There is also an important role to be played by directors of nursing, who can ensure that a ‘ward to board’ approach is taken, with senior managers leading by example.”


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Readers' comments (7)

  • michael stone

    Engaging with the person raising the complaint at the time it is raised, is where to start from - talk properly at the beginning, and many complaints will turn out to be simple misunderstandings, and will go no further. 'Brushing off people', however, is the road to escalation !

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  • michael stone | 29-Oct-2013 3:21 pm

    totally agree with you and can't emphasise it enough and have said so in quite a number of comments.

    it doesn't always need to end in zero tolerance and turning your back on the problems thus causing further frustration and anger in the service user which can seriously damage the complainant as well as the other; and it doesn't always need to resort to reporting the issue or worse still going behind the individual raising the complaint and labelling them or gossiping about them rather then confronting the issues - adult to adult and unless it is a serious complaint of negligence or poor care to the detriment of the patient which isn't or cannot be put right immediately it it does not always need to go higher up the chain and end up in the complaints office, ombudsman or by whistle-blowing.

    Problems need to be discussed with the complainant first and with the person being complained about, before it goes up the ladder and team issues must be discussed with those concerned in the team. general issues about standards must be discussed on a regular basis.

    any problems with a potential to become serious need to be precisely documented with dates, times, people concerned, place, events, etc. as once any verbal reports pass through a number of people the report becomes more and more distorted.

    Whilstle blowing and a standardised procedure need to be more clearly defined.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 30-Oct-2013 9:24 am

    Yes, and having tried a PCT complaint and also a PHSO complaint, if things 'go higher up the chain and end up in the complaints office, ombudsman or by whistle-blowing.' quite often you have reached an very unsatisfactory 'he says/she says' situation, and the outcome isn't considered as satifactory by anyone involved.

    The report just out by Ann Clwyd MP and Professor Tricia Hart (A Review of the NHS Hospitals Complaints System Putting Patients Back in the Picture) which I downloaded yesterday but have not had time to read, makes exactly this type of comment according to the press reports of it. It calls for (where have I heard this phrase before) a 'culture shift' for complaints handling, with the NHS seeing complaints as an opportunity to learn, and not something to be 'defended against'.

    It is all rather obvious !!!

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  • michael stone

    With luck you can download the report into NHS compaint handling from:

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  • michael stone | 30-Oct-2013 10:48 am

    it seems all rather obvioius except to those involved.

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 30-Oct-2013 9:24 am

    Well said.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 30-Oct-2013 11:27 am

    The BBC Radio 4 'Today' team, who are not the 'gentlest' of interviewers, fairly frequently pin down an interviewee and then put the "But, why did that need an investigation - why wasn't that blindingly obvious [to anyone with half-a-brain]' question.

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