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Assessing NHS Complaint Handling. It's All In The Name...WellHandled

by Ken Naismith | Posted in Complaints management solutions | 1 September 2015
Assessing NHS Complaint Handling. It's All In The Name...WellHandled

We’ve just had an interesting meeting about assessing and auditing the effective handling of NHS complaints.  WellHandled is a specialist feedback and complaints consultancy service for the Health and Social Care sectors, headed by Libby Campbell, OBE (pictured above).  A former Director of Nursing, Libby has over 30 years’ experience in managing NHS complaints of all complexities and at all levels.

A negative audit or serious complaint levelled against their organisation may cause clients to call upon WellHandled’s expertise.  More recently pro-active leaders are taking advantage of their audits which can point out “well handled” aspects in their complaints processes, as well as areas for improvement before disaster strikes. 

As developers of Workpro complaints management software, CAS values engagement with Libby and her colleagues.  Their pragmatism and expertise in addressing real world issues will help us to ensure we continue to provide complaints handling solutions which serve complaints managers, patients and carers - rather than another hoop they have to jump through.  Workpro is specialised software which supports the good practice complaints handling processes, reporting and analysis WellHandled promote.

NHS complaints are a delicate subject, suggesting that dedicated carers and hard pressed medical staff give rise for complaint, but the enlightened recognise complaints as a source of information on how and where improvements can be made.  They also see that timely, appropriate responses both improve service levels and keep the cost of handling complaints under control.  Money spent on escalation and redress is money denied to needy causes, further down the line.

Of course there are occasional grounds for serious complaint.  Even moderate issues are magnified when loved ones are ill, fuelled by anxiety and stress.  And though long-suffering NHS professionals seldom say it, there are compulsive moaners to deal with – people who forget how fortunate we are in the UK despite any shortfalls. 

Perhaps worst of all, there is the ever-lurking compensation culture.  Professional “ambulance chasers” capitalise on medical malfunction, so there’s an understandable limit on who can say what pre-investigation.   Separating faults from fault, and trying to put faults in the system right, is a positive move forward. 

The passage of time can also “hike the stakes”: benchmarks, targets and (perhaps less quantifiable but more volatile) patient and family expectations.  Time simmering in the cauldron of complaints, thickens the wrath!

What became clear in our exchange is our common understanding that actively managing complaints makes for much better outcomes than simply recording them and trying to push paperwork through the process.  A workflow-based system like Workpro automatically alerts timelines, makes (authorised) access easy when casework involves multiple stakeholders, and keeps associated correspondence safe and secure in one place, speeding up the process.  

The adage "time is money" applies in the NHS as in every organisation, every action uses resources.  The drain on precious resource can be minimised when medical professionals can more easily and quickly respond to enquiries and investigations.  

WellHandled and CAS are keen to identify an NHS trial to demonstrate the combined effects of using a better system on the quality of complaint handling, and the resulting benefits: improved patient satisfaction, staff support, management control, clinical compliance, as well as general acceptance and efficiency savings. If a formal system is not in place, Workpro software will be available to use with the WellHandled assessment process.

Well handled complaints rank high on the list of what makes for good customer service and good customer service has always been good for business.  We are now realising that it's also good for our health. 

For more information on Workpro visit: www.workpro.com

For more information on WellHandled visit: www.wellhandled.net

For more information on CAS Ltd visit: www.casltd.com

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