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Your spotlight on health and social care services


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How IPSIS could help improve the way the NHS handles complaints


From April, the Independent Patient Safety Investigation Service will start work. We look at what it will do and how it could help improve the way the NHS improves complaints.

From April 2016, the Independent Patient Safety Investigation Service (IPSIS) will offer support and guidance to NHS organisations on investigations and carry out some investigations itself.

Why is the service needed?

Making a complaint can be tough, particularly for those who are unwell, have been bereaved or are feeling vulnerable.

Every year there are 10,000 serious incidents reported across the NHS. From our research and conversations with the public, we know that many more incidents go unreported. Our report ‘Suffering in Silence’ found that:

  • There are over 70 different organisations involved in complaints handling across health and social care services, making it a very complicated and frustrating system to navigate.
  • Two thirds of people who experienced or witnessed poor care in the previous two years said they hadn’t raised a complaint because they didn’t know how or because they didn’t think that their complaint would be taken seriously.
  • People were reluctant to speak up because of a feeling that nothing would change as a result.

In March 2015, the Public Administration Select Committee report characterised investigations into serious incidents in the NHS as “complicated, take far too long and preoccupied with blame or avoiding financial liability” and falling short of what people are entitled to expect.

To help address this and ensure that for the most serious cases, patients, families and NHS staff get answers and that the NHS learns from its mistakes; the Government is setting up IPSIS.

Why is this important?

Complaints can identify problems and help to improve services for other people. But the health and social care system is not always good at listening. IPSIS has the potential to close the gap between people’s expectations and the reality of what happens when things go wrong and how lessons are learnt.

While IPSIS will only take on a small sample of cases each year, it will inevitably have a much larger role in setting the standard for investigations across the NHS.

In the light of the recent concerns around Southern Health NHS Trust and the way that untoward incidents and avoidable deaths of vulnerable patients have been investigated more broadly across the NHS, this role has never been more important.

What does this mean for me?

In a poll we commissioned, eight out ten people said they would be more likely to complain if they knew it would prevent others suffering in the same way in the future.

The creation of IPSIS could help drive a real shift in culture across health and social care that would see the gap closed between people's expectations and the reality of what happens when things go wrong and how lessons are learnt.

Have a complaint that you want dealing with now?

Read our series of guides to help you make a complaint or raise a concern.  

Read our guides

Download our briefing on IPSIS