Complaints Policy Statement 

The policy is not designed to apportion blame, to consider the possibility of negligence or to provide compensation. It is not the same as the disciplinary policy. However, the care service understands that failure to listen to or acknowledge complaints could lead to an aggravation of problems, service user dissatisfaction and possible litigation.

The care service supports the principle that most complaints, if dealt with early, openly and honestly, can be sorted at a local level, ie between the complainant and the care service. If this fails due to the complainant being dissatisfied with the result, the care service respects the right of the complainant to take the complaint to the next stage by seeking a review with the relevant reviewing body of how the complaint was addressed.

The aim is always to make sure that the complaints procedure is properly and effectively implemented and that service users feel confident that their complaints and worries are listened to and acted upon promptly and fairly.

Principles of Complaints Handling

  1.  Service users, their representatives and carers are always made aware of how to complain, for example, by having a complaints notice displayed prominently in public areas, having copies of the complaints procedure included in the information given to service users, and having the procedure available in alternative formats in line with users’ communication needs.
  2.  Service users, their representatives and carers are always made aware that the care service provides easy-to-use opportunities for them to register their complaints.
  3. A named person is always responsible for the administration of the procedure.
  4. Every written complaint is acknowledged within two working days.
  5. Investigations into written complaints are held within 28 days.
  6. All complaints are responded to in writing by the care service.
  7. Complaints are dealt with promptly, fairly and sensitively with due regard to the upset and worry that they can cause to service users and those against whom the    complaint has been made.
  8. The care service recognises national guidance on complaints’ handling, which uses a three-stage (two stages for some self-funding service users) model of:
  9. local resolution 
  10. complaints review
  11.  independent external adjudication by Local Government Ombudsman, Health Service Ombudsman or through the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS).
  12. The person to whom complaints should be made is manager.

The Complaints Procedure

Stage one: local resolution

The care service works on the basis that wherever possible, complaints are best dealt with directly with the service users by its staff and management, who will arrange for the appropriate enquiries to be made in line with the nature of the complaint. This can involve using an independent investigator as appropriate or if the complaint raises a safeguarding matter a referral to the local safeguarding adults authority.

Stage two: complaints review

In line with national guidance, the care service then recognises that if the complaint is still not resolved, the complainant has a right to take their complaint to the body responsible for the commissioning of the service, eg local authority and/or health service (again depending on the nature of the complaint and type of service involved). A self-funding service user whose care and support has no local authority involvement is entitled to go directly to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) for resolution.

Stage three: independent external adjudication

If complainants are still dissatisfied with the management and outcome of their complaint, the care service is aware that they can refer the matter to the LGO/Health Service Ombudsman in respect of some private healthcare providers through the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services (IHAS) for external independent adjudication.

Role of the Care Quality Commission

The care service makes its users aware that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) does not investigate any complaint directly, but it welcomes hearing about any concerns. It accordingly provides users with information about how to contact the CQC by referring them to the CQC’s leaflet How to Complain About a Health or Social Care Service (July 2013), (available on the CQC website).

The care service also sends to the CQC any information about complaints requested or required as part of CQC’s compliance reviewing policy.

Safeguarding issues

In the event of the complaint involving alleged abuse or a suspicion that abuse has occurred, the care service refers the matter immediately to the local safeguarding adults’ authority, which will usually call a strategy meeting to decide on the actions to be taken next. This could entail an assessment of the allegation by a member of the Safeguarding Authority team. (See the Safeguarding Service Users from Abuse or Harm Policy.)

The care service will also notify the CQC under the (revised) Care Quality Commission (Registration) Regulations 2009, Regulation 18(e) Notification of Other Incidents of “any abuse or allegation of abuse in relation to a service user”.

Verbal Complaints

The care service adopts the following procedures for responding to complaints and concerns made verbally to staff or to registered managers.

  1. All verbal complaints, no matter how seemingly unimportant, are taken seriously and are immediately acknowledged as concerns.
  2. If the complaint is being made on behalf of the service user by an advocate it must first be verified that the person has permission to speak for the service user, especially if confidential information is involved.
  3. It is very easy to assume that the advocate has the right or power to act for the service user when they may not. If in doubt it should be assumed that the service user’s explicit permission is needed prior to discussing the complaint with the advocate.
  4. After talking the problem through, the manager or the member of staff dealing with the complaint will suggest a course of action to resolve the complaint.
  5. If this course of action is acceptable then the member of staff will clarify the agreement with the complainant and agree a way in which the results of the complaint will be communicated to the complainant (ie through another meeting or by letter).
  6. If the suggested plan of action is not acceptable to the complainant then the member of staff or manager will ask the complainant to put their complaint in writing and give them a copy of the complaints procedure.
  7. Details of all verbal complaints are recorded in the complaints book by the staff or managers who receive the complaint and on the individual’s care records with information on how a specific matter was addressed.

 

Written Complaints

The care service adopts the following procedures for responding to written complaints.

Preliminary steps

  1.  When a complaint is received in writing it is passed on to a named person, eg the registered manager or registered provider/complaints manager who records it in the complaints book and sends an acknowledgment letter within two working days, which describes the procedure to be followed.
  2. The complaints registered manager is responsible for dealing with the complaint throughout the process, including for any investigations carried out by an independent person, who will report to the named person/complaints manager.
  3. If necessary, further details are obtained from the complainant by the person carrying out the investigation. If the complaint is not made by the service user but on the service user’s behalf, then consent of the service user, wherever practical in writing, is obtained from the complainant to provide that information.
  4. If the complaint raises potentially serious matters, advice will be sought from a legal advisor. If legal action is taken at this stage any investigation under the complaints procedure should cease immediately pending the outcome of the legal intervention.
  5. A complainant, who is not prepared to have the investigation conducted by the care service or is dissatisfied with the response to the complaint is advised to contact the organisation or organisations responsible for commissioning their services (local authority and/or health service) for a review of their complaint.
  6. The complainant then has the option of taking the matter to independent external adjudication and will be referred to the information provided by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in its leaflet How to Complain About a Health or Care Service (July 2013).
  7. If the complaint involves safeguarding issues requiring an alert to the local safeguarding authority, the care service will follow the safeguarding procedures, carrying out any internal investigation in line with any plan agreed with the safeguarding staff (with information shared with the CQC).

 

Investigation of a complaint (other than safeguarding) 

  1. Immediately on receipt of a written complaint, the care service will launch an investigation and aims within 28 days to provide a full explanation to the complainant, either in writing or by arranging a meeting with the individuals concerned.
  2. If the issues are too complex to complete the investigation within 28 days, the complainant will be informed of any delay and the reason for the delay.

Meeting

  1. If a meeting is arranged the complainant is advised that they may, if they wish, bring a friend or relative or a representative such as an advocate.
  2. Such a meeting gives the organisation the opportunity to show the complainant that the matter has been taken seriously and has been thoroughly investigated.

Follow-up action

  1. After the meeting, or if the complainant does not want a meeting, a written account of the investigation is sent to the complainant.
  2. This includes details of how to take the complaint to the next stage if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome.
  3. The outcomes of the investigation and the meeting are recorded in the complaints book and any shortcomings in procedures are identified and acted upon.
  4. The management reviews all complaints to determine what can be learned from them. It regularly reviews the complaints procedure to make sure it is working properly and is legally compliant.