New drive to improve social care complaints handling

Listening to feedback and learning from it is vital to improve quality of service. We have launched a new toolkit to help councils, care staff and services work together to build a positive culture around complaints and the opportunities to learn.
An elderly woman in a red coat and glasses speaking to a Healthwatch volunteer with a clipboard

Healthwatch conversations with people show that when things don’t go according to plan with their care, what they want is for the issue to be resolved quickly. They want their concerns taken seriously, dealt with compassionately and, importantly, they want services to learn from their mistakes so others don’t have to experience the same poor care in the future.

The best way to deliver this is to create a system where more negative and positive feedback is addressed effectively at the local level and that services then share their learning.

As part of the new ‘Quality Matters’ initiative, we are launching a social care complaints toolkit to help councils, care staff and services work together to improve local complaints handling.

The toolkit uses existing work from across the Healthwatch network to outline ways to:

  • Build an understanding of how communities currently see the complaints process to inform where improvement is required.

  • Ensure there is a ‘no wrong door’ approach applied when signposting complaints, meaning that whoever a member of the public speaks to when making a complaint, that organisations ensure it reaches the right place.

  • Facilitate the regular sharing of information about complaints between local partners to ensure collective learning.

  • Convene local complaints forums to bring together complaints managers with Healthwatch teams to review how cases have been handled and provide feedback on the process.

  • Help commissioners to seek additional feedback from people about their experiences of services where concerns have been raised.

This toolkit is the first product to come out of the ‘Learning from Feedback, Concerns and Complaints’ workstream of ‘Quality Matters’, which is being jointly led by Healthwatch England the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.

This workstream will continue to develop a culture across the social care sector that looks more positively on complaints and feedback leading to practice improvement. In particular it will aim to ensure people who use services, their families and carers receive information that is clear and standardised, and that complaints are handled quickly and effectively.

Over time this will see greater emphasis within the social care sector on talking more openly about when things have gone wrong, highlighting to others the lessons that have been learnt and outlining to the public where things have improved as a result.

Speaking about the launch of ‘Quality Matters’, Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England, said:

"Social care is in a fragile state, but if we are going to tackle the challenges ahead we all need to work together and start to build some positive momentum.

"Quality Matters is great way for us to celebrate the excellent care that is out there and help others to make the sort of changes, big and small, that will ensure everyone gets the high quality care they deserve.

"We will be supporting the Healthwatch network to play its part, promoting the benefits of listening to feedback, learning from complaints and commissioning based on experiences as well as outcomes."

Download our complaints toolkit

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