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NHS complaints system needs to change

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The NHS needs to overhaul the way it deals with complaints states an independent review chaired by Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP and Professor Tricia Hart says.

The review received 2,500 responses describing incidents of poor care and reports of a lack of compassion and dissatisfaction with the way complaints had been handled. The review panel also heard that some people did not complain about their problems because they felt the process was too confusing or they feared for their future care. Many were also concerned about the lack of independence in the current system.

The recommendations outlined in the report aim to improve the quality of care, address the causes of complaints, improve access and responsiveness of the complaints system, and ensure that hospitals adopt an entirely new attitude to complaints.

The main changes will be to ensure consumer and patient bodies work together locally to monitor the implementations of the recommendations, a development of standards for handling complaints by NHs organisations, and better commitments from organisations such as the RCN to improve complaints. This will include new guidance for nurses and a review of training and education on complaints handling.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: ‘There is 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.

‘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.'

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