HSJ EXCLUSIVE One in seven complaints cite employee rudeness

Published: 24/02/2005, Volume II5, No. 5944 Page 7

Impolite and unhelpful staff are to blame for one in seven formal complaints about the NHS, according to figures released this week by the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Of the 8,711 complainants assisted by CAB between September 2003 and August 2004, 14 per cent were unhappy about staff attitude.

It was the first year CAB has been responsible for providing an Independent Complaints Advisory Service for patients in six out of nine English regions as part of the new NHS complaints system.

While some complainants were unhappy about the attitudes of staff involved in their care, others were unhappy about the response of staff handling their subsequent complaints, the CAB said.

Director of policy Teresa Perchard said: 'There is an attitude to complaints that is simply looking to defend the service and is not looking to see how the experience of patients and relatives of patients can be used to bring any service improvement.' People would not be complaining to CAB if 'they had at the first port of call got an apology or had a sense that somebody was listening or interested in what they had to say', Ms Perchard added.

'It is a sign of failure in the NHS complaints system if people need to come to organisations like ours simply to help them make a complaint.' Ms Perchard admitted the stress experienced by doctors and nurses may contribute to the perception that they were unhelpful or impolite.

But she added: 'Sometimes the systems they are working in - which they haven't necessarily drawn up themselves - might be the source of the dissatisfaction [for patients].

'It puts the front line under pressure in a way that a different way of managing the system might not.' The report found the attitude of staff was the second highest reason for complaints in the NHS, behind 22 per cent of patients who were unhappy with aspects of the treatment they had received.

It comes just three weeks after HSJ reported a backlog of more than 3,700 complaints at the Healthcare Commission, which has been deluged with 4,460 since it took over the second stage of the process in July last year.