Responding to complaints
Mastering your response to a complaint is key to ensuring a positive outcome for all involved. Dr Andrew Stacey, MPS medical adviser, talks you through the process
Despite their best efforts, many health professionals will receive a complaint about the care they provide. Receiving a complaint is always a stressful experience and clinicians react in different ways.
It is advisable to discuss the clinical aspects of complaints with peers, both for educational purposes, as well as for collegial support. The Medical Assurance Society (MAS) and MPS also support access to a counselling service, which aims to provide immediate psychological support to members and assist in identifying useful resources for them in the longer term.
Right 10 of The Code of Health and Disability Services Consumers’ Rights1 (the Code of Rights) covers the right for a consumer to complain about a provider, and the duties that providers have in assisting with such complaints. Every provider, unless an employee of a provider, must have a complaints procedure and follow this when responding to a complaint.
Complaints can be raised verbally or in writing. If received verbally the discussion should be recorded in writing and agreed with the complainant. Check who is making the complaint – if it is not the patient, make sure you have consent to contain the patient’s health information in your response, or determine that consent is not required in the circumstances (such as a complaint from the spouse of a patient that you were rude to them).
What to do
It is a requirement of the Code of Rights that the complaint is acknowledged within five working days. It is also beneficial to offer to discuss with the complainant how their complaint will be handled.