The impact of an individual complaint in improving care services for others is being highlighted in a new report by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman’s Review of Adult Social Care Complaints reveals councils and care providers implemented more than 1,300 recommendations to put things right for people in 2016/17.
As well as putting things right for an individual, the Ombudsman makes recommendations to improve services for others by changing policies and procedures, training staff, or recommending a service be provided.
Within the Ombudsman’s 1,318 recommendations, councils and care providers made nearly 180 procedural changes and committed to train staff on nearly 50 occasions.
In some cases the result of a single investigation leads to the Ombudsman looking at injustices caused to people who haven’t complained. Examples of this over the past year include one person’s complaint about the way a council charged for care leading to more than 60 people, who had been similarly affected, receiving refunds.
In another case a couple complained about their council’s blanket policy to reduce the level of care it provided, and nearly 70 other families had their care reviewed following the Ombudsman’s investigation.
Michael King, Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman, said:
“I want to highlight the power that one person speaking up can have in changing services for the better for everyone.
“Our recommendations not only put things right for individuals, but aim to help councils and care providers avoid the same problems affecting others. Where we think a fault was caused by a procedural or policy issue, we recommend ways to review and change those practices.”
The report also welcomes the increase in complaints the Ombudsman has received about independent care providers. This reflects the growing importance the sector is placing on making the complaints process more visible and informing people of their rights to come to the Ombudsman.
Mr King also encouraged those organisations – both public and independently owned – where complaints were taken on board, and analysed, at the most senior level.
“Strong leadership in the sector is essential to foster a true learning culture from complaints. Good leaders will empower their staff to respond quickly and with confidence to customer concerns, and ensure the learning from complaints is actively owned at a cabinet or board level.
“When things do go wrong, it is those organisations with such strong leadership which are best placed to gain from the outcome of our investigations.”
Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive of Care England, said:
“In a sector being squeezed in all directions, it is heartening to see providers being praised for making the role of the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman better known and take a lead in learning from complaints, particularly in addressing self-funder complaints.
“It is right and proper that the sector works with the Ombudsman to create a more robust system where there is more confidence in care providers.”
Andrea Sutcliffe, CQC’s Chief Inspector of Adult Social Care, said:
“This report from the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman reinforces how important it is for people, their families and carers, to experience good, safe care that is responsive to their individual needs.
“CQC’s own State of Care report highlights the critical role strong leadership has in delivering high quality care and bringing about improvement. Being open to feedback, acting appropriately on people’s complaints and actively seeking out ways to put things right are essential elements of this.
“I encourage providers to use this report to reflect on how they listen and learn from people’s experiences, concerns and complaints. If all services did this then the quality of care would be better for everyone which is what we all want to see.”