What’s on the line? | Suffering in Silence

Making a complaint is a skill that we, as a society, are slowly improving at, after many years of the ‘keeping a stiff upper lip’ culture and ‘not rocking the boat’. Whether it’s not having satisfactory service at a restaurant, a new TV being faulty or an item of clothing breaking on the first wear, we tend to know who to go to in order to make our dissatisfaction heard. But how easy is it to complain if you aren’t happy with health care you’ve received?

Generally, when we access healthcare, be it at a GP surgery, dentist, hospital, or any other care setting, we have an expectation that we will receive the best treatment in a timely and appropriate manner. Unfortunately, however, this is sometimes not the case, and when this happens it can leave us feeling confused and unsure what to do about it.

‘Three in ten people accessing health and social care have had concerns about their care but never raised them’. It is imperative that, when receiving a complaint, the agency or individual in question welcomes the complaint, responds to the complainant and uses the information collectively to look at trends and assess what improvements and changes need to be made.

Healthwatch has, for some time, made the case for improvements to the complaints system which would enable more people to share their experiences. For improvements to occur, complaints must be welcomed as an opportunity for learning rather than viewed simply as a measure of poor performance.

In 2014, the Healthwatch report Suffering in Silence found that people who experience poor care, but do not report it, do so because they either don’t know how or they lack the confidence that their complaint will make a difference. People also told us that their main reason for making a complaint was a desire to improve future health and social care and they would be most likely to complain if they could see that other people’s complaints were making a difference.

The NHS receives over 500 written complaints per day, and since 2015 has been publishing more detail about complaints data than it did before. For example, data shows that the number of complaints relating to communication has risen by more than 25% in four years. Yet this alone doesn’t tell us the reason for the increase; it could be because of problems in how services are communicating with patients, or it could be because people are more willing to speak up now.

If you are unhappy with your experience of healthcare services, Healthwatch Essex Information & Signposting Team can assist you in identifying how to make a complaint and what to expect from the process. Call us on 0300 500 1895, email at [email protected] or drop us a line using any of the contact details listed here.

We look forward to hearing from you.


Information & Signposting Lead