Complaints breed complaints

The NHS is failing to deal adequately with complaints about its services, according to a recent report by the Healthcare Commission, the watchdog responsible for reviewing complaints that cannot be resolved at a local NHS trust level. The report reveals that the proportion of complaints upheld rose last year by 50% – and in less than a fifth of the 9,000 cases it looked at, the watchdog sided with the trust.

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Most worrying for those who believe in the importance of listening to user feedback as a means of improving services, the main issue raised by complainants was the way in which the NHS handles complaints. In other words, what bugs people most is not the issue that led them to complain, but the way in which the NHS responded when they did so. Complaints, it appears, breed complaints about complaints.