Summary of report content
Healthwatch Surrey undertook research into access to PALS as complaints handling was a priority for them. The research involved volunteers assessing information levels on websites and questionnaires completed by local PALS departments.
Overall, they found that Surrey Patient Liaison Services in 2016 are quite different from one another in function and organisation, perhaps as a result of having received little policy attention since their creation in 2002 despite the extensive changes in the healthcare sector in general. There is currently little sharing of good practice or dialogue between PALS from different employers.
Many PALS work more closely with their organisation’s complaints function than was initially envisaged, and many offer a more limited and more reactive service than the 2003 guidelines suggested. Many of the teams and managers spoken to emphasised the importance of patient experience within the culture of their organisation – some of the staff gave examples where PALS feedback had resulted in improvement to patient care. It was felt that more could be done to share this information with the public or wider staff team to help increase awareness of the service.
Volunteers identified a number of barriers that could prevent the public from accessing the PALS service. These included: offices that are hard to find or have restricted access, limited office opening hours and absence of out-of-hours information. They also identified that whilst PALS and Complaints teams offered patients and families clear opportunities to raise concerns, in most cases, there was no similar opportunity beyond the Friends and Family Test to record positive comments as these are normally expressed verbally at point of care and therefore lost.
As a result of Healthwatch Surrey’s discussions with providers, some agreed to implement a number of improvements to support the public accessibility of Health Complaints Advocacy and Healthwatch Surrey.