Complaints and the NHS

Is it worth complaining?


Every time I hear that the NHS has appointed yet another over-paid Consultant to look into problems, I want to ask why waste the money?Insurancey?

  • Why don’t they just delve into the bag of previous complaints and READ them – not just send out anodyne “apologies”
  • Why don’t they phone the patients who bothered to put pen to paper and talk about what they think could make things better
  • Why not use common-sense

The last will never happen – I sadly don’t think the NHS knows what it means.

 Comment from Roy Lilley

Roy has common sense in tons.  As he says “Handling complains is the first thing commercial organisations try to get right; they are important because they can show up flaws in systems. Complaints are no bad thing. They are never good but they are not necessarily bad. Listening, learning and fixing are the foundations to build a good responsive business upon.”


There are six key steps in handling complains:

  1. Listen
  2. Sympathise
  3. Don’t Justify
  4. Make Notes
  5. Agree a Course of Action
  6. Follow through.

It sounds like this:

Please, tell me what has happened, I want to hear it from you.
I’m sorry to hear you have had a bad experience.
Never justify – no one wants to know you are short of staff or busy.
Let me make a proper note of what you are telling me.
How would you like us to deal with this?
Whatever you agree to – do it or die in the attempt.
Simple steps; if every front line member of the NHS had the training and the confidence to do-and-deal-with my guess is half the complaints would just disappear. Instead they are handled badly, fester, escalate and get out of hand.

Why this doesn’t work in the NHS

There are 70 organisations who might get involved in an NHS complaint. Regulators, inspectorates, courts, committees and people in high office all join a hapless game of pass the parcel we call a complaint.

The legal framework, which is designed to regulate the professions, the NMC and the GMC is mired in procedures, codes and codswallop and serves very little purpose; they strike-off the register only a handful of miscreants a year. Better to confine their activities to keeping a register of the qualified on a big computer in Milton Keynes, strip the rest of their nonsense and make the employers responsible for the behaviour of their staff, hiring and firing like any company from the reasl world.

Alternative Suggestions

  1. “I don’t like to complain, dear”
  2. Do nothing
  3. Look for a good Witch Doctor as an alternative
  4. RAISE the nub of your complaint with your MP – and now’s the time to do this – whilst MPs are frantically thinking of how they can justify their existence so we vote for them next yea
  5. Which report on complains shows public satisfaction with the way in which the NHS handles complains has gone up by a piddling 16%, notwithstanding the much vaunted, Labour MP, Ann Clwyd’s report on complains gathering dust on the a shelf someplace. Her big idea of making Trusts publish updates on complaints has added diddle-squat.

We are stuck with the NHS and can’t take business elsewhere (unless we pay privately).  That makes training the front-line, having a clear, flexible, welcoming, open policy on complaints more important.

More words of wisdom from Roy on

Tagged: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: