Mental health service users receive poor response to complaints

One in ten second-stage complaints about NHS services concern mental health trusts, according to a Healthcare Commission review published today.

The review of second-stage complaints from 2007-8 cited poor responses from trusts including where mental health service users recieved letters “filled with jargon” that failed to answer concerns.

The watchog’s analysis of 462 complaints about mental health services also found that patients sometimes felt “powerless” and “controlled” by professionals involved in their care.

A further review of 24 cases involving patients with a learning disability showed that the group had negative experiences in acute hospitals. Trusts also failed to adhere to the principles of Valuing People and poor communication led to “missed opportunities” to access specialist services, the commission concluded.

Overall, the majority of second-stage complaints about NHS services – 43% – related to hospitals and concerned nursing care including nutrition, falls and observation of patients. One third of complaints were upheld.

The watchdog made 12 recommendations to trusts to improve complaints procedures.

Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “It is clear from our wider work on complaints that trusts are not always systematically learning from them and improving their services for the future as a result. They clearly need to do so.”

The review, the third of its kind, focused on the 8,949 complaints in the year to 31 July 2008 where the patient was unhappy with the trusts’ response.

The NHS delivers 380 million treatments and receives around 135,000 complaints a year.

From April 1, the current three-tier complaint procedure will be replaced with a two-tier system enabling people unhappy with trusts’ response to request a review from the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

More information

Full review: Spotlight on complaints

More on the complaints system

Related articles

Annual health checks for people with learning disabilities

Adult care complaints system needs to improve, finds NAO

Healthcare Commission urges better communication with users

Older people: self-funders in care homes can’t complain

Expert guide to mental health services

Expert guide to learning disability services


More from Community Care

Comments are closed.