How to handle complaints

25 January 2022 By Lorraine Gray

​It is very likely that most healthcare professionals have or will receive a patient complaint against them or their clinical recommendation at some point in their career. Admittedly, it is hard to not take complaints personally, but they don’t always mean that substandard care was provided. They do, however, provide a valuable source of patient-centric insight into aspects of care that may have not be easily captured through traditional quality control and safety monitoring.

Some complaints, such as car parking issues or missing medical records, we have no control over. Though when a patient expresses dissatisfaction over the level of care and treatment provided, this is something we can learn from and rectify. Knowing how to respond to and deal with a complaint is what matters, as well as viewing it as an opportunity to improve your healthcare provision and for continuous learning.

Why receiving complaints is important

Complaints from patients are somewhat inevitable and can happen to healthcare professionals of all levels of experience. After all, we’re all human and humans make mistakes! It’s important to not let it knock your confidence or act defensively, but instead to engage in the complaints process as there are many positives to consider as they:

  • Provide an opportunity for self-reflection

​Consider why the patient is complaining; what you did wrong and what you could have done differently. Complaints are an opportunity for you to re-evaluate a situation and learn from mistakes so you can move forward and improve yourself, your knowledge and your clinical practice.

  • Drive learning

​Learn from feedback and let it drive professional growth. Seek support from your superiors or mentors to discuss the complaint and how you can employ techniques and preventative measures in the future.

  • Give patients a voice

​Everybody has the right to make a complaint and if a patient feels that they’re not being heard, this is their opportunity to express their emotions and any concerns they have over care services.

How to handle a complaint

Complaints are often emotive and can be made by patients who are unaware of external factors influencing care, such as staff workloads, the level of intensity or pressure, and staff shortages. Even so, patients have the right to complain if they’re feeling unsatisfied with their care and the complaints process should be clearly outlined to them if that’s how they would like to proceed.

Other steps to take into consideration when you receive a patient complaint about a service, system or their care include:

  • Get advice from your organisation

​As soon as a complaint has been received under your care, head straight to the faculty you’re working in and discuss how best to proceed. Ask what their internal policies are and the right procedures so it can be dealt with appropriately and effectively.

  • Draft your response

​After the complaint has been logged, take time to absorb their feedback and then if a statement is required, draft an official response that will also be documented by your organisation. The fast draft will typically need to be written in three working days, with the final statement returned to your organisation in seven working days after the complaint has been made.

  • Identify any learning points

​Decipher what could have been done to prevent a complaint being made in the first place and identify how you could adapt your clinical practice to meet patient needs moving forward.

  • Discuss complaints and feedback at your annual review

​Normally, all complaints will be logged on a database and will be accessible for further discussion during your annual review. Take advantage of them and turn them into a positive to better yourself and your services.

Our complaints process at Medical Staffing

At Medical Staffing, we ensure that we are responsive to our clinicians’ and candidates’ needs regarding complaints, incidents, and clinical audits. We strive to facilitate a continuous learning and development approach and foster a robust complaints process to monitor themes and trends, ensuring that our candidates are working towards high standards and excelling throughout their healthcare career.

Once a complaint is received, details are logged and passed on and if a statement is required, this will be requested via the complaints team with an expected response time for the first draft in three working days. After it’s been reviewed by the Head of Clinical Performance or the Associate Director of Risk & Compliance, the statement will be sent back to the requesting faculty.

Rest assured, you will be updated and kept informed throughout each stage of the complaints process and next steps will include:

  • Working with the Head of Clinical Performance to review the audit and discuss an action plan

  • Recording the agreed action plan on the database

  • Sharing the action plan with the faculty

If you have any further questions about how to effectively handle patient complaints or the support available to you, we would be happy to talk to you about it!

Or if you would like to inform our team of a complaint, incident or clinical audit, you can do so via two email addresses; or

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