Report warns poor handling of patient complaints risks undermining confidence in NHS

Only one in eight hospital trusts comply with regulations on reporting patient complaints which risks undermining confidence in the NHS, it is claimed.

Healthwatch England said hospitals need to do more to show patients how the NHS is learning from mistakes.

The report titled Shifting the Mindset said there has been “positive change” following the inquiry into failings of care at Stafford Hospital on openness and transparency, but work was needed on complaints.

Sir Robert Francis, who led the inquiry into Stafford, wrote in the report’s foreword the findings should serve as a “reality check”.

The Healthwatch England chairman said: “Learning from complaints may well be happening but, as a member of the public, it is hard to see.”

NHS trusts have a duty to report the number of complaints recieved, their subject and what action is taken as a result.

The report, which covered 149 acute trusts in England, found 12% were complying with all the rules while 38% of trusts publish information on the changes they have made in response to complaints.

Sir Robert said: “Research by the Care Quality Commission shows that more than a third of people believe nothing will change even if they do complain.

“This shows a lack of belief in the NHS and its ability to listen. This must change.”

Speaking to The Independent, he added: “We need to have a much better culture of listening to people’s experiences and their needs about all sorts of things, but particularly perhaps health, in order to inform how we make things better.

“If we don’t do that, then public confidence and trust in organisations like the health service will diminish and it will become more difficult to promote the health and wellbeing of the nation.”

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