Complaining about the care of patients in hospital and residents in care homes

There have been a number of reports in the last few years of complaints about the care of patients in hospitals, the care of the elderly and learning disabled in local authority and private homes and the treatment of children in foster care and children’s homes which have caused grave concern and been given huge publicity. They have appeared to go unchecked and unremarked upon for far too long, despite the fact that huge numbers of people must have seen them.

Similarly, some people through age or ill health have handed over their decision making and financial affairs to someone who is not acting properly and does not have their interests at heart. You may be a relative or friend of someone whose affairs are being handled by someone who should be looking after them but you are suspicious of the care they are getting, what decisions are being made or where money is going.  To learn more about the Court of Protection, watch a video (click here) or read a plain English guide for non-lawyers, go to Bath Publishing.

If you are involved in a situation where any of this is happening and feel powerless, OnRecord will help you to complain and get some action taken to remedy the situation. To be effective, complaints have to be credible and backed up with evidence. They should be clear and understandable. OnRecord will help you collect every piece of evidence you have and show it on a timeline and in the calendar.

If you are a relative or friend of a person who is being badly treated and know that they are afraid to complain for fear of repercussions, you may find that they are reassured that their complaint is justified and will be taken seriously by showing how you have put together a clear and detailed record of all that has happened and can make a watertight and convincing case. At the very least it will be the basis for getting advice.

Here are some examples of what you could collect evidence about:

  • Being left unwashed
  • Being left unattended despite calling for help
  • Inadequate physical care
  • Physical abuse
  • Neglect
  • Emotional abuse
  • Humiliation
  • Sexual abuse
  • Stealing money or other property
  • Money or other assets disappearing

How to get started

Once you know what kind of things you want to record, decide whether to put it all under one heading (‘thread’) or start several different threads, each dealing with a separate issue. Then get started. If different things happen you can always add new threads. If you want to, you can also rename threads.

Make clear records of each event by completing the text box with a full description of what happened, what you saw when you visited or what you were told about. Take photographs or a video to back up what you’re saying. You may actually see an incident happen. Describe it. You may hear about an incident and can record what you are told and look for anything that may support what was said. For example you may be told ‘I was slapped on the face by Sally when I kept calling out’. Record what was said and by whom. Look for any marks you could photograph.

Rate the impact of what happened from the perspective of the person involved, not your own perspective.

Keep going with the records until you think there’s enough to make a complaint that will be believed.

When things go wrong – which regulator of health and social care to go to

The Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) can’t take up complaints on your behalf or resolve them. Their purpose is to make sure health and social care services provide safe, effective, compassionate, high-quality care and to encourage care services to improve. Their role is to monitor, inspect and regulate services to make sure they meet fundamental standards of quality and safety and they publish what they find, including performance ratings, to help with choosing services.

They also protect the interests of people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act.

If you’ve experienced or seen poor care, you can give feedback or complain to the organisation that provided or paid for the care. The CQC can’t make these complaints for you or take them up on your behalf as they don’t have powers to investigate or resolve them. That’s the job of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman or the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).. The only exception to this is for people whose rights are restricted under the Mental Health Act. Nonetheless the CQC still wants to know about concerns and hear about complaints and asks to be informed to help them to protect others from going through the same experiences.

Complaining, step by step

In the first instance, if you need to complain, send a letter of complaint, with the OnRecord chronology attached, to the service provider.  All health and social care service providers must have a complaints procedure that you can ask to see. This will tell you how to make a complaint.

If you’re unhappy with the response you get, the next step depends on the type of service and how your care is funded.  Remember to add a thread which records how your complaint is dealt with, including an account of conversations and copies of correspondence.  The way your complaint is dealt with can be as or more important than the complaint itself.

Complaints about the NHS (including GP and dental services)

Contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).

Complaints about adult social care

If the care is funded or arranged by a council, you can make a complaint to your council if it pays for your care. If you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you can contact the Local Government Ombudsman.

 

If you pay for your care yourself

You can go straight to the Local Government Ombudsman.

In each of these situations we are asking the Regulators to accept our chronologies as part of their reporting process.