Learn, Do Not Copy!

Describe how to respond to complaints

When individuals are not happy with the actions or inactions of a care provider, they have the right to complain.

Having a robust and swift complaints procedure is an essential requirement for all care providers so you need to be aware of your duties and your organisation’s agreed ways of working. Your organisation should have a Complaints Policy and Procedure that explains how complaints can be made and the process that is used for dealing with complaints, along with timescales. In fact, it is a legal requirement for care providers to have an accessible complaints policy (see the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 16). You should familiarise yourself with this document and if there is anything that you are unsure of, you should discuss it with your manager.

You should ensure that all the individuals that you work with understand that they have the right to make a complaint and you should always remain positive about any feedback given to you. All complaints and comments should be taken seriously and treated as a way to make improvements to the service you provide. The culture of your workplace should be one where service users, staff and others feel comfortable about raising their concerns.

How to respond to comments and complaints

By familiarising yourself with your employer’s agreed ways of working, you will be able to handle complaints competently and confidently.

If someone wants to make a complaint to you face to face, you should remain calm and listen intently to what they have to say. If possible, have the conversation somewhere private, for example in an office. Be non-judgmental and offer support but do not agree to anything – instead, explain the complaints process and reassure them that it will be taken seriously and that they will be treated fairly but an investigation must take place before any decisions can be made. You could suggest that their complaint is made in writing and provide them with a copy of the complaints procedure and the formal complaint form. Ensure they understand how their complaint will be dealt with and the timescales. You should also inform your line manager whenever a complaint or comment has been made.

A typical procedure for handling complaints is:

  1. The complaint is acknowledged in writing usually 2-3 days after is made
  2. A decision is made about the complaint will be handled, for example, by opening an investigation. This decision should be communicated to the complainant both verbally and in writing along with a timescale of how long it will take to complete (e.g. a week, 2 weeks etc.)
  3. If an investigation is opened, an independent person will gather information related to the complaint
  4. When the investigation is concluded, this will be written up in a report and a copy will be sent to the complainant. The report will discuss the findings and recommendations for future changes to improve the service.
  5. The complainant will have the right to appeal if they are not satisfied with the results of their complaint or the way it was handled. This may be an internal appeal or a report to an outside agency, such as the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Getting advice & support

If you are unsure about how to deal with a complaint or require clarity about the complaints policy and procedure, you should speak to your manager. They may offer guidance or deal with the complaint themselves.

You may also get support from other co-workers, especially senior or more experienced members of staff who may have dealt with a similar case in the past.

Learning from complaints

Compliments, comments and complaints should be welcomed and encouraged because all feedback is essential for improving your practice, the service you work in and the organisation you work for as a whole.

It can highlight areas where you may be lacking and provide you with the opportunity to make things better – some things you may not have even realised were an issue until somebody told you!

Comments and positive feedback can validate the work you do and motivate your team. Complaints and negative feedback mean that you can learn from your mistakes and provide a better service going forward.

Relevant legislation

Legislation that relates to complaints within health and social care includes:

  • Care Act 2014
  • Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 16
  • Data Protection Act 2018 (inc. GDPR regulations)

Example question

Write a set of guidance notes for social care workers to help them deal with complaints.

In the notes, you must:

  • Explain legal and organisational requirements for dealing with complaints.
  • Describe how best to respond to complaints from service users, other practitioners and the family of service users.

It is a legal requirement that all complaints are listened to and dealt with in a compassionate and timely fashion, as documented in the Health and Social Care Act and CQC’s guidance. All care providers must have a complaints system in place so that they can be handled and responded to. It must be investigated thoroughly and appropriate action should be taken if any problems are identified.

Clients Should Know They Can Complain

First and foremost, it is essential that if a client has a complaint about their service provision, they are aware that there is a system in place to take their complaints seriously. Even if you believe that the client does not have the mental capacity to make a complaint or that they may abuse the system by making unsubstantiated claims, they must still be informed of their right to make complaints. If requested, individuals are entitled to a copy of the complaints policy and procedure. This goes for their family members and others as well. It is good practice for an organisation’s complaints policy, procedure, and associated forms to be easily accessible (for example, in a communal area or as a download from the website).

Complaints Procedure

We have a complaints policy and procedure, which is available in the employee handbook and online.

If somebody wishes to make a complaint verbally then you should take as much time as needed to listen to them attentively and be respectful about what they are saying, whilst recording what they are saying on a complaints form. Alternatively, if the individual wants to fill in the complaint form themselves, you can simply give them the form. Some people may not be able to write their complaints, so assistance should be given. You should write their complaint down in their words and not your own. If the individual seems uncomfortable with making the complaint to you, then you should advise them that another staff member can take their complaint instead, if they would prefer.

If the complaint is relatively minor or the complainant has been misinformed, then it may be possible for the first responder to resolve the complaint through explanation, however, the nature of the complaint should still be documented.

After the complaint has been made and documented, senior staff should be made aware of the complaint so that an investigation can take place. The complainant should also be informed about what will happen next.

The investigation will be conducted by a senior member of staff who is independent of the scope of the complaint to avoid prejudice. The complainant will be responded to within two days to acknowledge the complaint and the investigation will begin within 5 days.

All complaints will be dealt with within 14 days and contact will be made with the complainant to discuss the outcome. All complaints will be resolved within 28 days, however, If the complainant is not happy with the outcome of their complaint, they can escalate it to the Local Government Ombudsman.

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