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13th March 2015

Complaining just might make things better

People recommend!The Health Ombudsman has produced some resources to help people with learning disabilities complain about the quality of their health care.

As a service manager, the words “I’m not one to complain…….” from a parent or relative usually precede a lengthy and comprehensive airing of a grievance. Being told that Mr or Mrs So-and-So is on the phone wanting to speak to you rarely heralds a conversation full of praise and bonhomie.
It has taken me many years to find the right combination of humility and confidence to appreciate the need for feedback as a provider. These days I still sigh when I get that sort of letter or call, but I rarely quake and I mostly remain positive.

A rose by any other name….

In outlining your complaints procedure, it is often helpful to re-title it ‘Feedback’ as this suggests a helpful exchange of views rather than a whinge. Feedback can be anything from the comments about the chipped paintwork to a full on critique of your management style, but being able to give equal attention to all levels of feedback can help make it less fraught. You see, without feedback, how will we ever know if we are getting it right?

Moreover, encouraging frank exchanges of views in this way can often reduce the risk of a little whinge becoming a big complaint. It demonstrates that you care about people’s opinions and take action to improve their experience of your services, which in turn generates more frequent dialogue and can result in a very healthy relationship with stakeholders.

These days it seems to be all about the customer experience in care provision. For us as providers there is a definite trend to evidence that we are listening to customer views and responding. This is not new of course; good providers have always been able to demonstrate the positive outcomes of responding to complaints. Like incidents, complaints are reminders that continuous service improvement is enabled by reflecting on what we do badly as much as what we do well.

Blooming politicians……

The Government, on the face of it, does not seem to make feeding-back particularly easy. By and large we air our grievances about public services in public places; the Rose and Crown, the precinct, the staff room. The opportunity to have a bit of a moan at our MP requires us to access them, and they are not exactly accessible. I was at some gig at Westminster last year and the TV monitor was showing a debate that was taking place. By this means I learned what my local MP looks like. Incidentally, this is nothing like her electioneering leaflets.

So the good old Ombudsman providing easy-to-read and accessible online information is a Good Thing. The website has lots of resources to help illustrate what happens when you make a complaint, including animations and posters you can display. Given the fact that research has shown health care for people with learning disabilities to be woefully missing the point, the encouragement to air views is a welcome sight.

You can access the web page here.

Ginny Tyler – QCS Learning Disability Expert Contributor

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