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NHS complaints regulation - The Ombudsman

Post date: 22/08/2017 | Time to read article: 1 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 15/08/2019

The Ombudsman takes the view that complaints handling should be ‘Do it once do it right’. The Ombudsman will be looking for an appropriate, proportionate response which meets the principles of good complaints handling.

The Ombudsman’s Principles of good complaint handling are:

  1. Getting it right
  2. Being customer focused
  3. Being open and accountable
  4. Acting fairly and proportionately
  5. Putting things right
  6. Seeking continuous improvement.

Ombudsman's Principles

The Regulations are not specific with respect to the remit and timescale of the Ombudsman's investigation. Interestingly the Ombudsman's website indicates that they may not be able to look at a complaint if the patient has indicated that they are taking legal action. This is different from the first stage of the complaints procedure as the Regulations are silent in this respect.

The Ombudsman has indicated that she expects local resolution to be more successful and she expects fewer complaints to come her way. However she has already accepted transfer of a number of open complaints from the Healthcare Commission. The Ombudsman will look in particular at:

  1. What is the procedure in the practice?
  2. Is it appropriate?
  3. Has it been followed?

What can the Ombudsman do?

The Ombudsman can:

  • Refer back to the practice if they consider more can be done.
  • Provide quick intervention where appropriate - on further questioning this appears to mean they will telephone the practice with a suggestion as to the way forward, in a similar way to the way in which the Dental Complaints Service sometimes operates.
  • Investigate if they consider more could be achieved.
  • Make recommendations to organisations to put things right (for the patient and for the future).

The Ombudsman has no power to enforce her recommendations - however she expects them to be given appropriate consideration and no doubt they will be copied to the PCT.

The Ombudsman reports to the Parliamentary select committee. Details of complaints are anonymous, but the select committee can order the practitioner to appear before it to answer questions, although this is rare.

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