Hospitals need to 'shift the mindset' so patients know their complaints will bring about positive changes

More hospitals should use their complaints system in a positive way to demonstrate to the public they can make improvements. Healthwatch wants hospitals to build patient trust so they know comments can bring about clear results.
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Four in five people have told us that seeing where other people’s complaints have made a difference would encourage them to speak up. Yet fewer than half of NHS hospitals in England (38%) are reporting on any action taken in response to complaints raised by patients and loved ones. 

Healthwatch Bristol, North Somerset and South Glos was involved with providing feedback to University Hospitals Bristol when it recently updated its complaints procedure to make it more patient friendly.  Healthwatch supports more hospitals making patients aware how their concerns or comments have been acted upon in the future.

Healthwatch England’s new report – Shifting the mindset (2020) – investigates how hospitals report on complaints and whether current efforts are sufficient to build public trust. 

Shifting the mindset – our key findings

Local reporting on complaints is inconsistent and inaccessible 

  • All hospital trusts are reporting to NHS Digital on the numbers of complaints they receive; however, only a minority of trusts report any more meaningful data at a local level. 
  • Our analysis shows just 1 in 8 hospitals trusts (12%) are demonstrating that they are compliant with the statutory regulations when it comes reporting on complaints. 

Staff are not empowered to communicate with the public on complaints 

  • All hospitals must produce an annual statutory complaints report but they are only required to make it available to people upon request. Yet we found that hospital complaints staff were often not aware of the reports or who could access them. 

Reporting focuses on counting complaints, not demonstrating learning 

  • Only 38% of trusts make public any information on the changes they’ve made in response to complaints. 

  • Much of this reporting is still only high-level, telling us little detail about what has changed and only stating that “improvements were made”.

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