Investigating complaints

Side of RRV with lozenge

As part of the Trust’s ongoing commitment to the duty of candour and being an open and transparent organisation, we recognise and understand the importance of learning from people’s experiences. 

All complaints are approached in an honest and open way, with the prime aim of resolving the problem, satisfying the concerns of each complainant and supporting the staff involved. 

All NHS trusts have to abide by the NHS Complaints Regulations 2009, which states that all complaints must be acknowledged within three working days. The Trust’s complaints policy sets the timescale for complaints investigations to be fully completed within 25 working days. 

A complaint can be raised by a patient or their representative, or any person affected or likely to be affected by the action, omission or decision of the Trust. 

All staff who are the subject of a complaint or concern should be offered support throughout the process. Staff will be required to contribute to any investigation by explaining their version of events either verbally or in writing. The purpose of the investigation is to understand what may have gone wrong, to clarify to the complainant what happened against what should have happened and apologise if an apology is appropriate. 

Staff should be notified by their line manager of any outcome from the complaint or concern and feedback the learning that has been realised as a result of the investigation. This is monitored by the patient services department. 

If you are investigating a complaint, here are some tips to help: 

  1. Pick up the phone! If you speak to the enquirer you are more likely to get a fuller understanding of the issues they are raising and it may help to resolve some of their queries or defuse the situation. You may even be able to close their concerns down by telephone. If you decide to meet with an enquirer, there is certain etiquette to follow, which can be found in the investigation handbook.
  2. Take written statements from those involved so they have an opportunity to put forward their recollection of events. Follow this up with specific questions to ensure all the enquirer’s concerns have been addressed.
  3. Review the CAD, patient care record, Adastra or cleric record and make sure these are attached to DATIX as part of the file.
  4. Be objective and take into account both the enquirer and staff’s recollection of events. If there was an independent third party present, contact them for a statement. Investigations should be proportionate to the concerns raised.
  5. Apologise! This is not an admission. If you can’t reconcile recollections of events, say this in your investigation.
  6. Update DATIX with your investigation: method of investigation, response to complaint (which should be addressed to the complaint e.g. your mother), complete the outcome code, complete the date investigation completed field and email the patient services department on to advise that your investigation is completed.
  7. Ensure your investigation considers the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman principles of good complaints handling: getting it right, being customer focused, being open and accountable, acting fairly and proportionately, putting things right and seeking continuous improvement.
  8. Ensure you feedback to any staff involved and give them an opportunity to view the final letter and report if they want to.

Published 23rd February 2015 

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