The Department of Health has defended its new framework for handling complaints about adult social care services, after plans for its implementation were attacked by adult directors.
The streamlined system, which comes into effect on 1 April, requires all local authorities in England to introduce more accessible, flexible arrangements which can be tailored to the needs of individual complainants.
The DH came under fire after the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services said councils had been given too little time to prepare, and faced “major problems” in implementing the new procedures.
The Department published guidelines on 26 February and laid down regulations before Parliament the next day, just one month before they come into effect.
DH: no major legal requirements
However, a DH spokesperson said the reforms did not place councils under the burden of any “major new legal requirements”. Instead, the most important requirement would be cultural change, to ensure councils listened to and learned from service users’ complaints.
The spokesperson added: “Successive reports have found that many complaints take too long to resolve and services do not try to systematically learn from mistakes.
“The new approach being introduced on 1 April has been widely consulted on and tested with health and social care organisations in the last few years. The regulations and the guidance published last week have been directly informed by this work and the widely accepted principles of good practice.
“Many organisations are already good at resolving and learning from mistakes but, for those who are not, the changes will encourage a culture that listens and learns.”
Improvements to the way health and social care complaints are handled were promised in the 2006 white Our Health, Our Care, Our Say white paper.