Darzi Calls For Better ‘Customer Care’

The NHS must provide better ‘customer care’ to its patients in future, the government has warned.

Speaking a conference of NHS managers last week, health minister Lord Darzi said: ‘Both NHS and social care services need to understand that effective complaints handling and good customer care are both key to improving the satisfaction of the people we care for.

‘Today I have spoken to NHS and social care leaders to remind them of their responsibility in implementing effective complaints systems, learning from patient feedback and demonstrating how they can use this learning to improve services,’ he said at the ‘Achieving Quality Through Better Customer Care’ conference at Lords Cricket Ground.

A report by the National Audit Office, published last October, was highly critical of the current system of complaints. It said it was too complicated, lengthy and difficult to navigate for health service users. The NHS received 133,600 complaints and social care received 17,100 care complaints in 2006-2007.

However, from April the Department of Health is introducing a single, simplified complaints system across both health and adult social care services in England. It has already been trialled in 94 organisations over the past year.

The new system will focus on local resolution, followed by an investigation by the health or local government ombudsman.

In the NHS it removes the second stage of the complaints process – currently handled by the Healthcare Commission – before referral to the Health Ombudsman. In social care, there is currently a four-stage process.

The NHS next stage review identified patient experience as being ‘key’ to the work of the NHS to improve quality. As Nursing Times reported last week, the government wants all trusts to introduce hand-held devices that allow patients to give immediate feedback on their care.