Complaints code to give doctors a say

By Robin Stride

A revised code of practice for complaints management in private practice gives independent consultants more say during investigations into patients’ grievances.

The Independent Sector Com­plaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) revamp, effective for new cases notified from January 2022, aims to promote a just and learning culture where complaints are positively welcomed.

With complaints in the private sector heading for record levels this financial year, the organisation says complaints need to be investigated thoroughly and fairly – with independent services giving patients fair and accountable responses.

ISCAS director Sally Taber told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘What we’ve found is organisations don’t always take comments from all staff on a particular matter of complaint, including consultants, so we want to ensure we get comments from all involved in the complaints. 

Written statements

‘Frequently, one of the criticisms is that the consultant should have written a statement as well. Our hope is organisations will take on board that it is not just their own staff but consultants with practising privileges, and physios, for example, as well. 

‘Handling a complaint takes time and that’s why they have to get it right in the first place.’

Covid-19 has, in many cases, led to delays in processing complaints documentation due to staff sickness, furlough, isolation and working from home. It has been a frustrating time for adjudicators, Ms Taber said.

The vast majority of providers are ISCAS subscribers and from last April to November received 200 heads of complaint: complaints handling 52, consultant medical care 40, clinical and non-medical/nursing 21, finance (mostly billing problems) 21, discharge 20, accommodation 19, consent 14, and administration 13. 

Sally Taber

Ms Taber said: ‘Learning from complaints and making note of how complaints are handled are important. There are still a lot of consultants working in consortia/groups who haven’t taken notice of ISCAS because they don’t subscribe

‘But to have the satisfaction of an external review stage for the patients they treat is very important otherwise they are operating a closed culture which can be a breeding ground for patients’ concerns.’

Complaints about non-subscribers to ISCAS emerge when their dissatisfied patients approach the body for help only to find their provider has not signed up to the code so the complaint cannot be taken further.