5 Steps to Manage Complaints Effectively

A report entitled ‘More Complaints Please!’ released this week by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee, has sent out the strongest possible message that effective complaints management should be at the heart of good care.

The report, which focuses on the failings of the Mid Staffs NHS Trust, highlighted how the lack of attention given to complaints was a major factor in the culture of sub-standard care at the Trust and emphasises how poor complaints handling alienates the public and affects the performance of an organisation. Read to on to find out how listening to, and acting on, complaints will improve your service.

5 Steps to Manage Complaints Effectively

The management of complaints is covered by Outcome 17 of the Essential Standards of Quality and Safety, which states that ‘people should have their complaints listened to and acted on properly’. Having an effective system of complaints management in place will not only help you address issues promptly when they arise but will also help you to develop a culture that responds to feedback and uses it to improve outcomes for residents.

Listen and Learn: Follow these 5 Steps to Manage Complaints Effectively

  1. Make your policy known: ensure that residents, relatives, staff and visitors all know how to complain if they have a problem by making details of your ‘how to complain’ process as visible as possible. Include details in your residents’ guide, on noticeboards, newsletters and at all of your resident, staff and relatives meetings.
  2. Train staff to respond: train every member of staff how to respond to a complaint and what action to take. Front-line staff are often the first to hear about a concern and should be able to act promptly to deal with it.
  3. Provide support: people who complain can often feel vulnerable as a result of speaking out or worry that they have been a nuisance to staff who are already busy. Always remember to provide support following receipt of a complaint; thank the person for speaking up, make sure they understand that you are grateful for bringing the concern to your attention and be available to provide reassurance if they are worried about any repercussions.
  4. Keep a record: record every complaint you receive, details of your investigation, any action you have taken in response and your communication with the complainant. These will form an essential part of your defence if your response is challenged at a later date.
  5. Reflect and learn: use every complaint as an opportunity to reflect on what could have been done better and what can be improved for the future. A complaint may be an isolated concern affecting only one resident, or it could be the first signal that there is a more widespread and serious problem with your service or with an individual member of staff. Failure to act on a complaint is not only a missed opportunity to improve but also sends out a signal that you do not take seriously the concerns of your residents.

Complaint handling is one of the CQC’s Fundamental Standards that all care providers have to meet. Are you staff properly trained and are your policies as thorough as they could be? Read Care Quality Matters for the latest advice, expert guidance and more to make sure you pass your next CQC inspection.

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