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GPs – How can you reduce complaints?
In one of my blogs back in June I discussed practices submitting their annual complaints data return for complaints received in the previous year. We’re now already halfway through this financial year, so it’s a good idea to review your complaints to save some work at the end of the year. By reviewing the areas where you received most complaints such as communication and attitude of GPs, nurses or staff, or premises or dispensing you should be able to see how you’ve actioned and hopefully reduced the number of complaints in this particularly category in the first half of the year.
Get external feedback
We can all find some ways in which to improve our customer service and patient experience but perhaps the patient really is the best person to advise us how to improve the way we work and show us what we are missing when we gain feedback. Don’t be afraid to use Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) to help you review your complaints, comments and suggestions. By discussing anonymised summaries of complaints and patient feedback with PPG members, they can offer invaluable ideas and suggestions on how to get things right next time. They, themselves as patients, will also feel involved and valued and more likely to support practices when particular issues arise.
Nothing annoys a complainant more than having to repeat what they are complaining about. Ensure staff who deal with patients directly are trained on how to manage complaints and minor grievances initially and have the right knowledge and tools to help the complainant. Encourage staff to gauge when to deal with the complaint themselves and when to pass it onto a colleague or manager, particularly if they know they aren’t helping to resolve the issue. Many complaints are further escalated because the complainant felt the staff didn’t know the answer or gave incorrect information, particularly new members of staff. Make sure there are always more knowledgeable members of staff available to help when necessary.
Make sure your practice website, newsletters, posters and leaflets are informative and help patients find the information they need. Ensure sufficient systems are in place within the practice to document and actively review comments and suggestions as well as complaints. You should start seeing patterns and trends well before they escalate into formal complaints. And don’t forget to thank people. It’s important to thank patients for their feedback, both good and bad because it improves customer service. It is just as important to thank staff for dealing with issues which have avoided a complaint, they will feel valued and know their efforts are appreciated.
Alison Lowerson – QCS Expert GP Practice Manager Contributor