An opportunity to improve

About feedback and complaints management within general practice

Feedback, concerns or complaints all contain valuable insights into how a practice can improve its service or how patient experience can be improved. Many issues can be resolved without a complaint – a conversation with the patient between a doctor or practice staff may help to resolve matters quickly and easily.

The NHS Constitution11 and the NHS Complaints Regulations12 state that if an individual feels they have been let down by the care or treatment they have received, they have a right to complain. Individuals have a right to complain on behalf of another individual, provided they have been given permission to do so by that person. 

What is a complaint?  

A complaint or concern is an expression of dissatisfaction, either verbal or written, and whether justified or not, requires a response and or redress. A practice that is responsive to feedback and concerns can often prevent issues from becoming a complaint.

What can people expect when they raise a concern or make a complaint? 

People should feel confident to raise a concern or make a complaint. They should feel making the complaint was simple and that they were listened to and understood. Most of all, they should feel that complaining made a difference and feel confident to make a complaint in the future. This is outlined in My expectations13, a framework for raising concerns and complaints. All health and social care providers will be assessed against the ‘I statements’ in My expectations, and set out on page 14. This forms part of the Care Quality Commission’s assessment of how organisations are listening, responding and acting on concerns and complaints. 

Similarly, the General Medical Council (GMC), which sets standards to help to protect patients and improve medical education and practice in the UK states that ‘patients who complain about the care or treatment they have received have a right to expect a prompt, open, constructive and honest response including an explanation and, if appropriate, an apology’.14  People can expect an apology to include what happened, what can be done to deal with any harm caused and what will be done to prevent someone else being harmed.
For an explanation of the NHS complaints journey see Annex B on page 64. 

A user-led vision for raising concerns and complaints (from My expectations)

11 The NHS Constitution, (2015) 
12 The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009.
13 Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, Local Government Ombudsman, Healthwatch England (2014), My expectations.
14 General Medical Council, Good Medical Practice (2015).