Complaints-handling in private sector boosted

The Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) is stepping up its drive to improve the handling of patients’ grievances.

A webinar with the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) raised awareness of the NHS Complaint Standards, which have now been incorporated into the ISCAS Code, so patients understand the principles of good complaints management whether treated privately or in the NHS.

More than 150 participants heard how healthcare providers should approach complaint-handling and learn important lessons to improve services.

The Patient’s Association has also publicised the role of ISCAS to inform patients how they can complain about private healthcare.

ISCAS recently worked with the national pressure group on a revision of its Code of Practice for Complaints Management and its Patients’ Guide.

This month, it also published an independent adjudicator’s feedback on an ISCAS subscriber’s complaints case to help other private providers benefit from these learning points:

Standard 2 of the code requires complainants to be given a copy of the complaints procedure when they first raise concerns. 

The adjudicator encouraged the provider to ensure this happens for to any future complainant when they first raise any worries.

Standard 4 requires complainants to be invited to a meeting – which could be held virtually or via phone if the complainant prefers – to discuss concerns and agree the key heads of their complaint. This was not done.

Standard 11 requires written comments or a statement from all relevant clinicians or staff involved in the complaint, including clinicians with practising privileges. 

The adjudicator said it would have been appropriate to have obtained written comments from the doctors who responded to the complainants’ online submissions and provided her with advice.

The person responding to the complainant at Stage 1 was identified by her first name only. The adjudicator found this was inappropriate and strongly encouraged the subscriber to ensure complainants receive full names and designation in future.

Standard 18 requires subscribers to signpost complainants to the next stage of the complaints process. This was not done and the complainant was told only to let ‘first name’ know if she remained dissatisfied with the response.

Standard 19 requires subscribers to identify the person responsible for handling the complaint at Stage 2. Again, this was not done. Instead, the Stage 2 response was sent by an unnamed person.

Standard 20 requires the Stage 2 review to be carried out by a senior staff member of the subscribing organisation who has not been involved in handling the complaint at Stage 1 and is removed from the hospital or clinic complained about.

But the adjudicator was unable to establish if this was done in this case. The complainant was told the review was done by a senior member of the clinical team.