Complaints regarding public sector services have been under scrutiny in recent years. Patient complaints relating to healthcare have been at the fore following Mid Staffs and Francis Report. As well as patients reluctance to damage their ongoing relationship with their doctor or the medical team involved in their (or their loved one’s) care, recent research published by the Parliamentary & Health Ombudsman, shows that patients (whether termed patients, consumers or customers) are deterred from complaining about healthcare because:
- They do not know where or how to complain
- They feel it will make no difference
- They think it will take too much time
The Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman investigate complaints into NHS health care which have not been resolved by the NHS organisation. Knowing where to complain and how to raise concerns can be difficult for patients and their families. Many patient interest groups are calling for a single port of call for all public sector complaints. Patients can experience significant delay is their complaint is referred to the wrong body, which makes it harder to resolve the complaint when the right forum is found. Nockolds clinical negligence team offer patients an advisory service to help identify where to complain and can help present the complaint to the NHS organisation initially and also to the right body if it needs to be escalated.
Nockolds Solicitors also provide the UK mediation service for consumers of optical healthcare, Optical Consumer Complaints Service which is funded by the General Optical Council. At the OCCS, we see part of our role is to improve patient access to all complaint procedures. The process is clear, straight forward and quick. After providing initial information and signing 1 form authorising your optician to discuss your personal information with our advisors, we can get involved to try and find a resolution.
The OCCS mediate consumer complaints relating to optical healthcare provided in the private sector. Optical healthcare is one area of healthcare where NHS and private healthcare are provided side by side and often simultaneously. Sight tests may be conducted under an NHS voucher with those eligible then receiving a voucher to put towards the cost of buying glasses or contact lenses.
When considering complaints, usually a sight test supplied under an NHS voucher is classed as NHS care and therefore falls within the NHS complaints process. The glasses or lenses purchased, whether using an NHS voucher or paid for privately by the patient amount to private healthcare. This can be confusing for patients (consumers) but at the OCCS we invite consumers and opticians to contact us regarding any complaint involving opticians or optical healthcare. Our advisors will then discuss the complaint one to one normally over the phone the same day (or by email or letter depending on the enquirer's wishes). The OCCS adviser will help the consumer to identify the appropriate forum for their complaint whether that is the OCCS, NHS complaints process or to contact another organisation such as the regulator (General Optical Council).
When the OCCS mediate, in 98% of complaints we help those involved find a resolution. This can include an apology, refund or replacement glasses. In over 95% of complaints mediated, a resolution is found in less than 50 days
If the complaint falls outside the OCCS remit (not a consumer complaint), our advisors help patients to find the right organisation to help and deal with their complaint. The OCCS are a gateway for patients to ensure they do not feel pushed from one organisation to another.
The OCCS are constantly look at ways to improve the service provided (which is free for consumers and funded by the UK regulator of opticians, the General Optical Council). Feedback from those using the service is vital, as is feed backing to those contacting the service. It is important that they know how their complaint has helped to improve standards in an individual practice and opticians across the UK.
For more information about the PHSO's research, please click here.
For more information about OCCS, please click here.