Dealing with complaints
Judith Cave and Jane Dacre outline some strategies for dealing with complaints and for reducing their rising number
One in 10 patients admitted to hospital in the United Kingdom experience an adverse event,1 and around half of these events are preventable. The number of complaints from National Health Service patients is rising in the UK: the Department of Health's Independent Complaints Advocacy Service dealt with 10,422 complaints in 2003-4 but almost 13,000 complaints in 2004-5.2
It is essential that healthcare professionals work together with patients and deal constructively with feedback to reduce adverse events. Evidence shows, however, that doctors find complaints extremely upsetting, feel unsupported in dealing with them, and are fearful of the consequences, including litigation.345 Here we describe how and why patients complain and then suggest some evidence based strategies for reducing complaints and for dealing appropriately and helpfully with any that do occur.
Complaints often follow adverse clinical events, but they can occur even when nothing has “gone wrong.” Similarly, not all adverse events result