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Sorry seems to be the hardest word

  • Comments (6)

Analysis of complaints sent to the health service ombudsman has found that not receiving an adequate apology is the most common complaint, accounting for a third of cases last year.

As we know from our home lives, if someone says sorry it means they have acknowledged how you feel and taken note of your concerns. You are not invisible and you can move forward.

However, maybe it is harder to say sorry in a work environment; it can feel more complicated and more significant. Reluctance to say sorry may be related to fear that by doing so you have accepted you were at fault, and that accepting fault may have ramifications.

Useful RCN guidance clarifies this issue. Good Practice for Handling Feedback encourages an open, friendly and honest response to a complaint. And says on the issue of saying sorry: “Offering an apology does not constitute an acceptance of responsibility. In many cases an apology will help you to manage the immediate problem of someone wanting to share their bad experience with someone who cares, so that hopefully you can ensure that it doesn’t reoccur.”

Nursing revalidation is coming next year and will require, among other things, nurses to provide five pieces of practice-related feedback. But of course as these complaints figures show, not all feedback is good. So gather all your positive feedback for revalidation, but more importantly, think of how to deal most appropriately with negative feedback. Sorry might seem like the hardest word but it appears to be the best.

  • Comments (6)

Readers' comments (6)

  • michael stone

    'Analysis of complaints sent to the health service ombudsman has found that not receiving an adequate apology is the most common complaint, accounting for a third of cases last year.'

    Twas ever thus !

    It is an enormous problem - the failure to appear to be open and honest right at the start, leads to escalation, and then the complaint becomes hugely adversarial, 'protocol and process' lurches into action, and what might have been resolved by a simple 'I'm sorry - we got that wrong, but we didn't mean to' at the start, 'turns into a war'.

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  • Anonymous

    Stone keep your projections to
    yourself before you start passing value judgements on others. Because you may not apologise it doesn't mean everybody else is like you.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 10-Oct-2015 8:56 pm

    I'm not projecting anything - a long series of reports have all pointed out that 'defensiveness' from staff and/or organisations in the NHS, and a tendency to not respond to concerns/complaints immediately they are raised and 'with an attitude of honesty and engagement', is a serious problem.

    I'm probably no better at apologising, than most people are - but it is definitely correct that 'perceived defensiveness from NHS staff/organisations' leaves the laymen wondering if there is an attempt to cover things up, and also leads to 'escalation'.

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  • Anonymous

    michael stone | 11-Oct-2015 12:12 pm

    if everybody as in my hospital, at least in all the departments I am familiar with, including the interdisciplinary team, patients and families work in an open partnership there is no need to cover anything up!!!!!!!!!!! mistakes are made, yes, because we are all human and all human beings make them without any single exception and recognition, apology and an endeavor to rectify the problem as quickly and easily as possible is often all that it takes with obviously, more serious problems being taken as far as is necessary.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 11-Oct-2015 4:33 pm

    Well your hospital is probably getting it right - but that isn't true of all hospitals and NHS organisations, as the numerous reports repeatedly highlight.

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  • michael stone

    re above - for example

    https://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/specialisms/whistleblowing/investigations-launched-into-stafford-hospital-death-cover-up/5091055.article?blocktitle=News&contentID=4385

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