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Effective complaint handling and clearing of a backlog for an acute trust

The client

An acute trust – Health

Challenge

Complaint Handling.

An acute trust was criticised by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for failing to respond to formal complaints. One of the trust’s hospitals had built up a backlog of over 200 complaints, some of which were long-standing.

Our challenge was to help the trust find out why the backlog had built up, clear it as quickly as possible, and ensure that all new complaints were handled appropriately and within the timetable set by the Department of Health.

Scope

Verita provided consultancy and training for complaints handling to be implemented throughout the organisation.

Process

Verita established an on-site team of five experienced complaint handlers to tackle the backlog and ensure that all new complaints were dealt with on time. We also analysed all complaints between June and November 2011 to identify recurring issues and inform the clinical teams involved so that action could be taken to prevent recurrence. The Verita team involved partner Derek Mechen and directors Chris Brougham and Amber Sargent.

Once this work was underway, we worked with the in-house team to review the trust’s complaints handling system. We also spoke to managers and clinicians to gauge attitudes towards complaint handling.

We designed a better, more user-friendly system and introduced weekly meetings with senior managers to discuss progress in outstanding complaints.

The final phase involved developing and delivering a training programme to ensure all staff are clear about their role in complaint management.

Findings

It was apparent that the handling system needed an overhaul, and that managers and clinicians had become disengaged with the process.

Outcome

Within six months we had cleared the backlog of complaints and supported trust managers in taking back responsibility for complaint management. As a result, the trust became 100% compliant with the Department of Health’s deadline for resolving complaints.

Testimonial/feedback

The trust has since asked Verita to conduct a review of other aspects of the hospital’s governance structure, for example the need to improve systems for learning lessons from incidents and complaints. We have also been asked to review arrangements for handling complaints in other hospitals run by the trust.

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