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You have a duty to make sure that individuals know that they have a right to complain or comment about their care or support. It is important that this is able to happen quickly and in a positive way. They should be taken seriously and explored so that any learning can be used to keep doing the right things or to make improvements. Positive comments can be encouraging and used to show how good ways of working are making a positive difference. Ask your employer to tell you about what to do when someone wants to complain or comment.

The Local Authority Social Services and NHS Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 is the legislation for complaints in health and social care. The Department of Health also published the NHS Constitution in 2011, which tells you about guiding principles and patients’ rights. There should be a recorded process to follow which may differ depending on the type of workplace and have a time limit in which the complaint has to be made after the situation happened. If someone wants to make a comment or complaint you should deal with it in line with your organisations agreed ways of working.

Depending on where you work, that could include:

  • Arrange to talk in private
  • Make sure the individual knows that you may need to pass on information if there is a risk to the safety of themselves or others
  • Listen calmly and actively, assuring them that you are taking them seriously
  • Do not judge or become emotional
  • Offer your support but do not try to answer at this stage
  • Explain what will happen next, who the complaint will be passed to and when they will get some feedback.

Thank them, tell your manager what has been said, and make a record as soon as possible.

Often an organisation has one named person who deals with complaints. Depending on the size of the organisation there may be a complaints section such as the NHS’s Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Your workplace also needs to identify a ‘responsible person’ who will be the person that holds the role of accountable officer. Smaller workplaces might not have anything in writing but will still have agreed ways of working when complaints are made.

Sadly, having the best ways of working, the code of conduct and the duty of care, doesn’t always protect vulnerable adults from harm. All health and social care workplaces involve workers collaborating towards the wellbeing of those needing care or support. Mistakes happen through things like lack of knowledge, poor communication or not sharing information, stress, negligence or being distracted.

The first thing to do after something has gone wrong is to do what you can to improve the wellbeing and meet the immediate needs of the individuals involved.

Your workplace will have a form which you should complete to record incidents, accidents and near misses. You should record the date, time and facts. This is used to make your manager aware straight away. Do not blame other workers or suggest why the incident might have happened to those involved even if you have an idea why it was. If your thoughts turned out to be wrong you could lose the individual’s and family’s trust and respect.

  • Standard 3.1 - Learning Outcome 3.5a
  • Standard 3.1 - Learning Outcome 3.5b
  • Standard 3.1 - Learning Outcome 3.5c
  • Standard 3.1 - Learning Outcome 3.5e