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Reaction to MPs’ report on complaints handling

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the General Medical Council

This is a welcome report, which once again highlights the need for a simple, open and transparent complaints process that puts patients first.

Complaints give the health service a chance to reflect and improve the care that patients receive. However we know that making a complaint about poor treatment can be difficult and patients can be passed from pillar to post. This increases the time it takes to resolve a complaint and serves no-one.

The challenge for the GMC and the wider health service is to make sure that patients can reach the organisation best able to deal with their concerns as soon as possible. This is not something that professional regulation can achieve alone, however we are doing all we can to speed up the process and support those who make a complaint about a doctor.

There is still more to do, however the law governing professional regulation is outdated. The reforms we have been campaigning for, in the shape of the Law Commission, would enable us to be more adaptable and responsive to the needs of patients and others who raise concerns with us.

We know that raising concerns can also be a daunting prospect for doctors. This is an issue we are determined to address, and we have commissioned an independent review of how we deal with doctors who raise concerns in the public interest and what more we can do to support those who do speak up.

Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation

We are pleased that the Committee recognises the progress that has been made by our members since their last report on this issue in 2011. There is no room for complacency as further action is clearly needed to demonstrate consistent approaches to complaints handling.

Having an effective complaints procedure is an important part of offering high-quality, safe healthcare. We provided evidence to this inquiry highlighting that an NHS complaints systems needs to have a simple golden thread, where the patients and their families always receive an apology, an explanation and a clear description of the lessons that have been learned as a result.

The NHS Confederation has long argued that patients must easily know where they need to go and who they need to talk to if they wish to raise a concern. The Committee’s call for a single complaints gateway for all NHS providers is a recommendation we certainly welcome to help make the process clearer and more effective. This will need to be delivered in ways which also allow rapid response and resolution of complaints.

We note the Committee’s comments on the experience of some whistleblowers in the NHS and how this is at odds with improvements in culture and confidence elsewhere.  We support the calls for practical redress for those who have been harmed as a consequence of raising genuine concerns. We should apply the same golden thread of complaints handling to staff who have been failed. We also look forward to the Francis report and its findings following detailed scrutiny in this area.

NHS Employers chief executive Danny Mortimer

We are pleased that the Health Select Committee noted improvements in culture and confidence amongst staff who raise concerns as well as recognising that there is still more to be done. Like the Health Select Committee, we look forward the publication of the report of the Freedom to Speak Up review led by Sir Robert Francis.

Employers recognise that properly listening and responding to complaints and concerns is a vital part of ensuring the safe care of patients.

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