A more discerning customer? Making the NHS everyone’s business

Guest blog by Gail Beer, Director of Operations, 2020health, on Ann Clwyd MP and Professor Tricia Hart’s review of the NHS Hospitals complaints system published today.


Ann Clwyd’s report on the NHS complaints system makes it clear that there needs to be a culture shift in the way we address complaints in the NHS. We need to be more transparent, encourage staff to raise issues and make sure we learn from complaints at every level in all organisations within the NHS, not just hospitals.  It is shocking that people are too frightened to complain about care in case they are victimised. We should be ashamed that this can happen in our society

 Yet I fear that this change is not all going to happen any time soon.

The NHS is under siege- there is not a day goes by without some awful story about poor care or a  comment being made in the  Houses of Parliament about the NHS needing to improve. When under siege, one may be tempted to batten down the hatches, or become desensitised.

Staff are still fearful of raising concerns in case they themselves are accused of bullying and harassment of colleagues or their own professional integrity is called into question.

Patients have nowhere else to go if their local hospital is not listening or not providing good care. For many there is no choice and we are all just a bit scared when we feel vulnerable.

We need a more fundamental change than any of these reports suggest, we need a change in the way we the public and not just when we become patients, perceive healthcare. It is a service that we pay for and we must exert our consumer rights and demand better care and service , not just accept that everything is too difficult or allow ourselves to feel ungrateful if we complain.  To do this we need to take more interest in the services we are being delivered, take responsibility for challenging poor care and just as importantly poor service by non clinical staff. We have to do this every time we come across it and not just leave it up to a few campaigners. Every incident, however small  needs to be reported and dealt with real time by those in charge for us to make any kind of change. Not reported to some faceless body 10 miles away and not responded to several days later either. We the public must send the message we want better.

Would we tolerate a receptionist in a restaurant ignoring us for five minutes while we wait to book a table, holding her hand up to silence you when eventually you speak and then chat to a friend while you waited? You’d walk out.

By its very nature our tax funded system has led to some confusion over accountabilities particularly to those who pay for it. No one wants to see our health care system destroyed or called in to disrepute, yet beating up the staff   be it by politicians and the media will not solve the problem. We the public have to be more vocal and treat our health services with the same discerning eye we would treat anything else we spend money on. At the same time those working in the NHS need to remember who pays the bills.  Rebalancing the relationship between the customer and service provider however difficult it seems will perhaps be the only solution in the end.  

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