Five ways services can use complaints to make social care better

When people complain about poor care, it can be a real opportunity for services to listen and change. We’ve highlighted five ways services can do this.
Senior man standing with female social care worker

Research by the Care Quality Commission has shown that 61% of those who raised a complaint did so to improve the care they or a loved one had received, and that more than half also wanted it to improve for everyone.

Despite this, we often hear that raising an issue with a care service is confusing, that finding support to do so is difficult, and that it’s not clear whether people’s feedback has been listened to or acted on. These cases only exacerbate already upsetting situations for those involved.

John's Story

After John’s mother had a stroke, she required 24-hour nursing care. But the care home was unable to meet her multiple health needs, and unsuitable equipment meant she was unable to live in a dignified way. Like many people, John’s mother lived her final years at the nursing home, and the poor quality of care provided made her experience – and that of her family – very distressing.  

Unhappy with how his mother was treated, John raised his concerns with the care home, but didn’t get a response to his questions. Deciding to take the issue further, John contacted his local MP, who agreed to bring his case to the attention of Parliament.

After two parliamentary debates, a response from the Prime Minister and eight years of campaigning, John and his MP spoke with a care minister to discuss his experiences of social care and how it can be improved. He believes what his mother experienced could have been prevented if somebody had listened.

John said: “What I experienced happens to thousands of families every year. Social care services need to listen to our concerns and make real changes.”

Despite John’s tireless campaigning, his believe his questions have remained unanswered. It’s important that more people do not find themselves in John’s position where they feel their concerns have gone unheard.

What can services do?

Have a simple and clear complaints procedure

Making a complaint can be stressful. By having a clear procedure that’s easy to find, services can help support people’s wellbeing by minimising further distress. If more than one organisation is being complained about, make sure to coordinate your responses, so people only need to raise their issue once.

Provide the right support

Unlike health services, not everyone is entitled to independent social care advocacy. Again, this can be upsetting if multiple organisations are unable to help someone when they already feel let down. Care services should be supportive of people raising issues and provide them with details of who can support them.

Be encouraging and respectful

Care services should always be open to hearing people’s feedback, both positive and negative. People should be encouraged to raise their concerns, and must feel they are being actively listened to, as well as reassured that their care will not be affected because they have spoken up.

Communicate openly

People want to know that their feedback is being taken seriously. By being open about how their concerns are being addressed, and showing how it’s improved the service for others, people will feel that sharing their views results in real change when care goes wrong.

Show people where to go next

If people are unhappy with your response, you should give them information on how they can take it further. As well as giving them the contact details of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, you should explain what the service can offer, so that they are clear on what they should expect from escalating their complaint.  

Do you need help making a complaint?

Take a look at our practical resources to help you make a complaint about NHS health and social care services.

Find out more

Do health and social care services know what you really think?

Share your ideas and experiences and help services hear what works, what doesn’t, and what you want from care in the future. 

Speak to your local Healthwatch