In the midst of a pandemic, the focus for health and care professionals has, rightly, been on responding to the immediate, increased demand on services. Our Registrants have faced tough challenges on a daily basis. However, as is to be expected during a crisis, opportunities for learning and development may have been lost.
This could particularly have been the case in NHS settings, where there is currently no standard complaints framework. This is something which the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (PHSO) consultation seeks to address. Following conversations with the NHS, Government organisations, patients and advocacy organisations, they are now consulting on a new Complaints Standards Framework for NHS organisations and staff.
The key aims of the new framework are for:
- Senior leaders to promote a learning and improvement culture;
- Staff to be trained to seek feedback from service users and ensure individuals can provide feedback easily;
- Staff to be trained to carry out a detailed look which is thorough, empathetic, objective, evidence based and supported; and
- Staff to provide clear and accountable decisions.
Raising concerns and being open and honest when concerns are raised are key focuses for our Registrants, and are outlined in our Standards of conduct, performance and ethics. The creation of this Framework will help positively support Registrants working within the NHS to meet our standards, by creating clear guidelines for their employers and other service providers to follow.
However, while we are supportive of the new framework on the whole, and welcome changes which will improve the safety and experience of patients and service users, it is important for the PHSO to recognise the challenges of COVID-19 in rolling out these standards.
For example, it is likely organisations may experience some difficulties in training staff on the new framework. This might be because employees have been redeployed to other roles, to support the wider organisation’s needs, and therefore training in these areas has to be prioritised. Alternatively, there may be less opportunities to deliver training in a suitable format due to social distancing or remote working.
Although these concerns do not need to be reflected in the Framework itself, it’s important that the wider guidance and communications surrounding implementation of the Framework acknowledge them.
We also believe that the Framework should provide more detail, targeted at the public, that covers what regulators can and can’t do and when to contact us. We believe this will help clarify the public’s expectations of our processes and help organisation’s understand where their responsibilities lie.
Ultimately, we are pleased to see that the PHSO has listened to the voices of patients and service users, and reflected this in the new framework. We hope that the establishment of the framework will lead to improvements for the public and for our Registrants working within NHS settings.