Hospitals need to demonstrate learning from mistakes

  • Date: 20 January 2020

ANALYSIS by Healthwatch has shown that only 12 per cent of hospital trusts demonstrate compliance with statutory regulations when it comes to reporting on patient complaints.

In a new report, Shifting the mindset, Healthwatch concludes that hospitals need to do more to show patients how the NHS is learning from mistakes. 

The report found that fewer than half of NHS hospitals in England (38 per cent) are reporting on any action taken in response to complaints raised by patients and loved ones. It also states that much of this reporting is still only high-level, providing little detail about what has changed and only stating that "improvements were made".

Healthwatch also concludes that staff are not empowered to communicate with the public on complaints. All hospitals must produce an annual statutory complaints report but they are only required to make it available to people upon request. It found that hospital complaints staff were often not aware of the reports or who could access them.

Sir Robert Francis QC, chair of Healthwatch, writes in an accompanying blog to the report: "The public expects the NHS to learn from mistakes, and to be kept informed about how these changes are made. Four in five people have told us that seeing where other people’s complaints have made a difference would encourage them to speak up.

"Complaints are a valuable tool which help hospitals spot and tackle issues quickly. They should not be seen by hospitals as something to ‘be managed’, but as an opportunity to learn and improve. To have a complaints system that works, the NHS must give patients the confidence to speak up by showing them how their views are heard and acted upon.

"The NHS needs to step up efforts to show people what it is doing with their complaints and the direct improvements that happen as a result. This is not just about feeding back to individuals, but ensuring all patients understand how their voice can lead to change. Getting this right will require a mix of local action and national leadership."

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