Headlines: April 16th, 2014


The Commons Public Administration Select Committee says complaints are valuable management resource, but the culture of denial and failure of leadership in public services in handling them is what leads to failures like the Mid-Staffs hospital disaster.

The Committee examined the handling of complaints following the Mid-Staffs crisis, which highlighted how leadership failures to hear and address concerns from patients, their families, and staff led to “unspeakable disaster”.

Opportunities to offer sufficient redress, improve services and boost public confidence are missed in poor complaints handling. PASC calls for “single point of contact for citizens to make complaints about Government departments or agencies”, which provides “meaningful human support at the end of a telephone for those who need it.”

The Committee concludes success depends on the right leadership of public services which values complaints as critical for improving, and learning about, their service.
PASC often heard the words ‘complexity’ and ‘confusion’ about complaints processes. Sometimes it’s an “appeal” or “review” or “feedback”. The report concludes, “A complaint is a complaint… nobody should be shy of the term ‘complaint’… Other euphemistic terms for ‘complaint’ should be banned.”

The report “More Complaints Please!” says how complaints are handled determines the quality of the relationship between consumers and public services.

The Committee recommends that the Government should appoint a minister for Government policy on complaints handling to provide leadership from the top and ensure the Cabinet Office review of complaints handling changes attitudes and behaviour.

Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of the Committee, said:”There needs to be a revolution in the way public services are run, and how the public perceives Government. As things are, most people believe there is no point in complaining. The shocking collapse of care at Mid-Staffs hospital should be a warning to the whole public sector that too many managers in public services are in denial about what their customers and their staff think about them. The Francis Report gave no comfort that the culture of denial does not exist across most of the NHS, though we hope that is now changing.