COMPLAINTS POLICY – Hans Place Practice
1 INTRODUCTION / OBJECTIVE
The Hans Place Practice ( HPP ) is an independent business fully approved and licensed by the Care Quality Commission
HPP is committed to providing an excellent level of care & service to patients and customers.
Comments, suggestions and complaints are viewed as important feedback and as an opportunity to learn and improve customer care, service and other aspects of the Company.
The purpose of this policy is to describe the procedures for managing complaints made by patients and customers and any other members of the public who have been in direct or indirect contact with the Company.
The purpose of this policy is not to apportion blame and therefore this policy will not cover any disciplinary procedures.
It is the policy of the HPP that the time limit for making a complaint is within six months of the event which gave rise to the complaint itself or within six months of the complainant becoming aware that they have cause to complain.
There is discretion to extend this time limit where it would be unreasonable for the complaint to have been made earlier and where it is still possible to investigate the facts of the case. Reasons for the delay in submitting the complaint must be requested from the Complainant. The discretion to vary the time limit must be used with flexibility and sensitivity and the effect on staff / the subject of the complaint must be taken into consideration.
Where a complainant has specifically stated that they have instigated legal action, the complaints procedure must cease. If a complainant states they intend or wish to take legal action, this does not constitute explicit intent. The complaints procedure must continue until HPP receives confirmation that legal action has been instigated.
It is the policy of HPP that all complaints will be taken seriously and the views & feedback of patients, customer or members of the public will be respected.
Where possible in the interest of impartiality to the Complainant, HPP will investigate internally all complaints fully and provide a considered response within an agreed timeframe, in line with policy.
HPP reserves the right to appoint an independent complaint examiner ( ICE ) at any point in the management and / or investigation of any complaint received in the interest of impartiality to the Complainant. HPP will have undertaken the proper process of due diligence in appointing any outsourcing the complaint and have put in place a binding confidentiality agreement with any external appointee such that no patient data or information provided is compromised by outsourcing arrangements between HPP and its chosen business partners.
If a complaint is held to be justified, all relevant staff must ensure that changes are implemented as necessary to prevent any issues from re-occurring.
This policy must be consulted prior to managing complaints made by patients, customers and all other members of the public who have been in direct or indirect contact with the Company.
Note: This policy does not cover complaints about the non-disclosure of information under the Data Protection Act 1998 or the Freedom of Information Act 2001.
2 POLICY DEFINITIONS
HPP – Hans Place Practice
ICE – Independent Complaints Examiner
MAC – Medical Advisory Committee
CQC- Care Quality Commission
3 COMPLAINT DEFINITIONS
A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction with a service which has personally affected an individual and which requires a response in order to promote resolution between the parties concerned.
Complaints can be categorised as follows:
Service complaint – arising for example from the activities of administration, financial and legal services, housekeeping or health and safety and the environment.
Clinical complaint – arising from the activities of clinical departments and non-medical staff employed or contracted by HPP.
Medical complaint – arising from the activities of a Consultant, or Doctor including the outcome of surgery or treatment received by the Complainant.
4 STAFF RESPONSIBILITIES
The appointed person has overall responsibility for the effective implementation of the Complaints Policy.
Clinic staff and doctors have responsibility in assisting the appointed person / ICE in investigation of the complaints relating to their areas of responsibility and for ensuring that all staff complies with this Policy.
General Recording, Review and Retention of Complaints.
All information received regarding a complaint must be dated, placed on a Complaints Register.
All complaints that are of a medical nature should be reviewed and fed back to the MAC where applicable.
All complaints that are not of a medical nature should be dealt with by the appointed person.
Any emerging trends must be reviewed and dealt with accordingly.
6 Verbal Complaints
All verbal complaints will be dealt with promptly wherever possible, at the point of service, by the person providing the service, ensuring that a comprehensive written record of the complaint is made by the person receiving the complaint.
If it is not possible to resolve the complaint on the spot or if the Complainant does not accept the response, the complaint should be immediately referred to the Clinic Manager who will deal with it as per the complaints procedure.
If the Clinic Manager is not available, then another manager or senior staff member should be contacted and should commence the complaints process.
All such discussions with Complainants should be conducted in a confidential manner and should be undertaken in private.
If a member of staff feels that a verbal complaint raises a serious matter, they should encourage the Complainant to raise the complaint in writing to the Clinic Manager. If the complaint is made and accepted as a verbal complaint, the key and salient points of the verbal complaint should be noted by the person dealing or recording the complaint by way of a simple agreed summary of the key and salient points of the complaint and the summary then signed and dated by both parties.
Discretion should be used when deciding whether or not a verbal complaint is of a serious nature. This is a matter of individual judgment but if staff are unsure they should seek advice from the Clinic Manager, if different from their line Manager.
• Upon receipt of your complaint:
• Your complaint will be registered on our Complaints Register
• A letter will be sent to you confirming receipt of your complaint
• Your complaint will be fully investigated
• You will receive a reply in full no later than 21 working days from the date of your letter confirming receipt
• Should there be preliminary matters that arise from the complaint being raised at any stage of the complaints process that require attention before the commencement or review of the complaint investigation itself, this will hold over the stated number of working days for the complaint response outcome until those preliminary matters have been fully addressed and satisfied.
• If you are unhappy with the outcome at Stage 1
• Write to the Clinic Manager or person dealing with your complaint setting out clearly why you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your Stage 1 reply.
• A letter will be sent to you confirming receipt of your complaint and your complaint will be elevated to Stage 2
• Your complaint will be fully reviewed no later than 28 working days from the date of your letter confirming receipt
• If you are unhappy with the outcome at Stage 2:
• Write to the Clinic Manager setting out clearly why you are dissatisfied with the outcome at Stage 2 reply
• A letter will be sent to you confirming receipt of your complaint and your complaint will be elevated to Stage 3
• Your complaint will be sent to the Medical Director, who along with an independent non-employee of the company will fully review the whole complaint process through stages 1 & 2
• You will receive a reply in full no later than 28 working days from the date of your letter confirming the internal investigation has commenced.
If the complaint is in respect of a locum of transient worker the subsequent investigation will seek to engage that worker by way of feedback in respect of the complaint investigation. Should this not be possible, the complaint will be dealt with as thoroughly and as fully as is possible in the absence of that worker.
If necessary, the Complainant should be contacted if any further information or clarification is required by the investigating staff.
During any investigation, the investigating staff must continue to comply with the company’s polices on data protection and the confidentiality of patient information.
In the event of a serious medical complaint being received, the Clinic Manager may enlist the help of a clinical specialist / expert when undertaking the investigation.
All members of staff involved in a complaint should be fully informed of any allegations at the outset if a complaint could potentially lead to disciplinary action, staff should also be advised of their right to seek help and advice.
The method by which a complaint is investigated is entirely at the discretion of the investigating staff. During the investigation of the complaint, the investigating staff should keep records of any interviews, etc. undertaken.
Written Response to Complaints
If the complaint is rejected, the Complainant should be advised that the matter is now considered closed.
If the complaint is upheld, apologies for the Company’s shortcomings will be offered to the complainant and the complainant should be informed of any proposed remedy, if appropriate.
The response should clearly state the conclusion of the investigation and whether the HPP accepts or rejects the complaint made. The written response should normally include:
• A summary of the complaint
• An explanation of HPP view of the events
• An apology, wherever possible (this does not have to be an admission of any error, it can be an apology for the fact that the complainant felt that they had cause to complain)
• Details of what has been done to prevent a recurrence of the incident, where appropriate
Some complaints may identify serious matters and disciplinary action might be considered during the course of the investigation. Such consideration is a separate matter. Information gathered during a complaints investigation may be used during any future disciplinary procedure.
A complaint might be received that indicates a need for any of the following:
• An investigation under the employers Disciplinary Procedure
• A referral to a Professional Regulatory Body
• An Independent Inquiry into a serious incident
• An investigation or reporting of a criminal offence.
7 UNRESOLVED COMPLAINTS
Where a complainant indicates that they remain dissatisfied after exhausting the 3 Stage of the complaints procedure, every effort should be made to identify the Complainant’s remaining grievances and to resolve them if it at all possible. However, if a complainant feels that, despite the efforts made during the investigation, they are still unhappy with the outcome.
The Complainant must be advised of their right to raise the matter to the Care Quality Commission and must also be provided with the necessary contact details as below.
Care Quality Commission Finsbury Tower
103 – 105 Bunhill Row
Telephone: 03000 616161
8 External Investigation
If the CQC decide to undertake the own investigation, the Clinic Manager or appointed person will be the main point of contact during the investigation.
The Clinic Manager will also ensure that the Company co-operates fully with the CQC during the investigation and that any instructions or recommendations made by the CQC are fully implemented.
On considering the request, the CQC may make the following determinations:
That no further action is required, on the basis that the complaint has been thoroughly investigated and answered in full.
When making this determination, the CQC will provide detailed reasons for its decision; or refer the complaint back to HPP with suggestions as to what further action might be taken take to resolve the complaint such as review of its procedures and services.
9 Intractable Complaints
HPP will not tolerate abusive language being used towards its staff at any time.
Letters containing comments of this nature may not be answered, telephone calls may also be terminated in these circumstances and emails will be rejected.
If this happens the Complainant will be informed of the reason for the action.
The Complainant can either resubmit their complaint in an alternative form or ask for a review of the decision.
In very rare cases HPP may also declare a complaint, or Complainant as intractable, in that the complaint is frivolous or vexatious in nature. A complaint / Complainant will be deemed intractable if they meet two or more of the following criteria:
• Persists in pursuing a complaint where HPP Complaints Procedure has been fully and properly implemented and exhausted.
• Changes the substance of a complaint or continually raises new issues or seeks to prolong contact by continually raising further concerns or questions upon receipt of a response. New issues which are significantly different from the original complaint may be addressed as a separate complaint.
• Are unwilling to accept documented evidence as being factual, or deny receipt of an adequate response in spite of correspondence specifically answering their questions or do not accept that facts can sometimes be difficult to verify ( e.g. when a long period of time has elapsed )
• Do not clearly identify the precise issues or provide key and necessary information that is key and material to the complaint being investigated, despite all reasonable efforts to obtain that information.
• Focus on a trivial matter to an extent that is out of proportion to its significance and continue to focus on this point. It is recognised that determining what a ‘trivial’ matter can be subjective and HPP would use careful judgement if applying this criteria.
• Have threatened or used actual physical violence towards staff at any time, all such cases must be documented via an Incident Form in accordance with HPP policy.
• Have in the course of addressing a complaint had an excessive number of contacts with HPP or by placing unreasonable demands on staff or process. ( A contact may be by telephone, letter, email or fax ) Discretion would always be used in determining the precise number of “excessive contacts” applicable under this section and judgement would be based on the specific circumstances of each individual case.
• Have harassed or been abusive or verbally aggressive on more than one occasion towards staff dealing with their complaint. ( HPP recognises that Complainants may sometimes act out of character at times of stress, anxiety, or distress and will make reasonable allowances for this, but will not tolerate harassment).
• Are known to have recorded ‘telephone conversations without the prior knowledge and consent of other parties involved.
• Display or make unreasonable demands or expectations and fail to accept that these may be unreasonable (e.g. insist on responses to complaints or enquiries being provided more urgently than is reasonable).
• Demand resources and time which may impact the service or business of HPP.
• Wilful refuse to accept or engage with the complaints procedure and practice of HPP
Once a complaint / Complainant has been deemed intractable a management plan will be agreed. This will include a letter to the Complainant outlining the following:
• Clarifying the position the complaint has reached.
• Setting parameters for a code of behaviour by the Complainant.
• Advising the Complainant of the lines of communication and future arrangements (e.g. name of contact person, number of calls per week to be allowed)
• Advising the Complainant, where applicable, that further correspondence will be acknowledged as received but not answered.
If telephone calls are received from the Complainant after the above communication has been sent staff will behave politely but firmly by acknowledging and noting the
time and date of the call and by telling the Complainant they are now going to terminate the call. Time should not be spent listening again or responding to a well-known complaint.