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Complaints are vital for improvement.

8 December 2014

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Dissuading patients from making complaints could have a detrimental effect on the quality of healthcare provision believes regulator the, Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Today’s Complaints Matter report has found that there is a wide variation in the way complaints are handle across the NHS, primary care and social care services in England.

Although there were areas of good practice, not encouraging patients to come forward with their complaints leads to concerns not being identified and providers not knowing how best to improve their services.

The report also found that complainants are too often being met with a defensive culture rather than one that listens and is willing to learn.

Sir Mike Richards, Chief Inspector of Hospitals at the CQC, who led the review said: “A service that is safe, responsive and well-led will treat every concern as an opportunity to improve, will encourage its staff to raise concerns without fear of reprisal, and will respond to complaints openly and honestly.

“Unfortunately this is not happening everywhere. While most providers have complaints systems in place, people’s experiences of these are not consistently good.

“We know from the thousands of people who contact CQC every year that many people do not even get as far as making a complaint as they are put off by the confusing system or worried about the impact that complaining might have on their or their loved one’s care.

“More needs to be done to encourage an open culture where concerns are welcomed and learned from.”

The CQC encourage people to come forward with their complaints, to keep them informed on the progress, to reassure them that action will be taken as a result, and to assess that whether they are satisfied with how it has been resolved.

This in turn will lead to improvements in quality of care.

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt said: “as part of our drive to confront poor care we’re making sure people know how to complain and transforming complaints handling – now a crucial part of the CQC’s tough, independent inspection regime. Today’s report shows both that that progress has been made and that there’s still more to do.”