This informal CPD article Tops tips for managers in the proactive response to complaints in Health & Social Care was provided by Clare Kirkman at Care Today, who offer solutions to support the H&S Care sector by working collaboratively and with integrity with our clients to deliver and exceed their expectations.
Having worked in the H&S Care Sector for 38+ years, as a front-line care giver, manager, care service owner operator and now expert consultant, writer and trainer working with 10s of care providers, I have seen my fair share of good, bad and indifferent complaints management approaches.
So why is a proactive response to complaints important?
Complaints should be seen as a great opportunity to improve but unless this is your response to them, you will struggle to be proactive in managing issues. I have witnessed managers becoming defensive or secretive about complaints, omitting to log or detail them, or worse still, describing them as just ‘minor gripes’ or ‘concerns’ as if a change in the terminology will magic the issue into something less than what it is. But trust me, if a service user isn’t enthusing about how good something is, they are complaining, and when they are just ‘mentioning it to you in passing’ they are doing so because they want you to do something about it.
If you don’t listen to them, the grumbling, rumbling gripe will likely eventually escalate into a full-on issue, by which time the service user isn’t telling you, they are instead telling their social worker or worse still CQC/Ofsted or warning off other potential customers.
Crucially, managing a complaint in a proactive manner from the moment it is brought to your attention, can also make the difference between ‘nipping an issue in the bud quickly’ versus it ‘escalating to a full-blown investigation.’ And as you have no way of predicting this, your appropriate and timely response to an issue, might also save a person’s life.
For example, you receive a little ‘gripe’ from a family member or a service user that their favourite care worker has been a little late recently ‘but they don’t want to complain’ so they are ‘just mentioning it to you in passing.’ If you are like many managers, you will simply acknowledge this, maybe make a note of it but little to nothing else is done. You may even mention it in ‘passing to the care worker’ but sadly the issues mentioned or managed in passing, should actually be the proactive managers first and only required RED FLAG, and result in immediate and documented discussions with the worker.
When these issues are not treated with any urgency or formally managed, often the care workers behaviour continues. Then comes the day that they are so late, have ignored company policy so not notified the service user or the office, and the service user decides to try and get up and go to the loo themselves. What happens next? The service user falls over, breaks a hip, goes to hospital, contracts covid and dies! Dramatic? Maybe - but look at these stats!
According to the world health organisation on the 26 April 2021
- Falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury deaths worldwide.
- Each year an estimated 684 000 individuals die from falls globally of which over 80% are in low- and middle-income countries.
- Adults older than 60 years of age suffer the greatest number of fatal falls.
- 37.3 million falls that are severe enough to require medical attention occur each year.
- Prevention strategies should emphasize education, training, creating safer environments, prioritizing fall-related research and establishing effective policies to reduce risk.
So, what does ‘proactive’ actually look like?
It’s very simple, a proactive response to complaints management looks like:
1. Not tolerating any service standard slippage, with the minute an issue (whatever it is dressed up as being) is brought to your attention, you are responsive and address it head on with the complainant and the subject of the complaint.
2. Working with complainants, to reassure them that whilst they clearly don’t want to ‘officially complain’ you take all service standard matters seriously and even a minor satisfaction deficit is handled as a complaint in order that it does not escalate to anything more sinister and can be logged as a complaint for the purpose of tracking and trending issues.
3. Setting high standards for staff, not just at interview and training, but that sends a strong message that you expect standards to remain high consistently, and you act on any deficits of this.
4. Using complaint management as a good reason to ‘check-in on staff wellbeing’ for example, a care worker who is usually very reliable and who is then underperforming could have an issue with child-care and which if you are aware of this, you might be able to assist with, through offering support such as reconfiguring work schedules.
5. Ensure there are consequences for poor practice where there is no other feasible explanation for conduct, and this might range from:
- additional training;
- being assigned a mentor;
- higher levels of supervision;
- or as a last resort some form of disciplinary and/or performance management action.
So, now you have read this, the next time you hear ‘I’m not complaining …but…’ how will you manage this?
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