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Shifting the mindset in the NHS complaints system

13 February 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 3


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses a Healthwatch report showing that improvements need to take place in the way the NHS reports on patient complaints

Nobody likes complaints being made against them; it is a fact of human nature that the person who is subject to the complaint will feel hurt, defensive and will probably suffer a loss of self-esteem and self-confidence. The complainant may well have felt that it was the only way to move forward in a difficult situation where they felt confused, isolated and afraid because they did not understand what was happening to them or a relative. Nurses or doctors may have failed to explain properly what may be a simple matter because they are so busy. The patient then resorted to making a formal complaint in order to get information that should have been given before. It should not be forgotten that there are always two sides to any complaints story. There are no winners, and nor should there be. Both sides will bear a heavy emotional cost. We need to do all we can to avoid complaints being made in the first place.

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