Inquiry into health care complaints NSW

With thanks to Donella Piper for drawing it to my attention, available online is the August 2013  report of the Committee on the Health Complaints Commission.

The report is entitled Inquiry into health care complaints and complaint handling in NSW.

The Committee’s recommendations include standardization of complaints, better collection of data. The recommendations made are as copied below.

RECOMMENDATION 1 _______________________________________________ 
That a best practice model for the handling of complaints be devised by the Ministry of Health for adoption by each of the Local Health Districts. Although the Committee recognises that particular policies could be retained that are unique to the needs of each District, a core standard should be devised to ensure a measure of consistency for the handling of complaints at a hospital and District level.
RECOMMENDATION 2 _______________________________________________
That the Commissioner identify and report any apparent trend or disparity with respect to the nature or quantity of complaints lodged by regional health consumers when compared with metropolitan health consumers.
RECOMMENDATION 3 _______________________________________________
That the Commission, or NSW Health through the Bureau of Health Information, undertake a survey to gauge regional consumer approaches to complaints, including seeking responses in regard to fears of retribution, and lack of alternative health practitioners, to determine whether complaints from regional health consumer have been inhibited by these concerns.
RECOMMENDATION 4 _______________________________________________
That the Commissioner collect, retain and compile data on the origin of health consumers who lodge consumer satisfaction surveys, and publish the results either in the Annual Report or Quarterly Report, or both. To ensure the identity and privacy of a complainant is maintained, the Committee recommends that the data pertaining to the origin of health consumers who lodge a complaint be limited to discrete categories of ‘regional’ or ‘metropolitan’.
RECOMMENDATION 5 _______________________________________________
That the Commissioner formulates a protocol to deal with complaints made as a result of extraordinary circumstances, such as a fatality, that investigation of that complaint be expedited as a matter of priority, and that there be an increased engagement with the affected parties.
RECOMMENDATION 6 ______________________________________________ 
That the Commission continue its training and outreach activities, and continue to undertake activities that bring Local Health Districts within the Commissioner’s ambit.
RECOMMENDATION 7 _______________________________________________
That, in its rollout of new surveys, the Bureau of Health Information collect data on consumer satisfaction with complaint management processes within the systems offered by NSW Health, and aggregate the data by Local Health District.
RECOMMENDATION 8______________________________________________ 
That the Bureau of Health Information, Ministry of Health, or other relevant body, develop a pro forma survey for distribution to Local Health Districts that specifies questions with respect to the consumer satisfaction with complaint management processes. The Committee recommends that the results of these surveys be published and widely distributed.
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RECOMMENDATION 9 _______________________________________________
That that the Commission continue to review and refine content on its website to ensure it remains current, user-friendly, and helpful.
RECOMMENDATION 10 _____________________________________________ 
That the Your Rights and Responsibilities brochure be made mandatory for inclusion with the admission and discharge papers of each patient, that a directive be issued to ensure that it is placed in easy and accessible places within clinical services offered by Local Health Districts, and that further information pertaining to the complaints contact in each Local Health District be provided with the brochure.
RECOMMENDATION 11 _____________________________________________ 
That the Commission further its outreach to culturally and linguistically diverse communities. This includes translating its privacy policy in the most commonly used community languages, engaging with community organisations and community language media to promote its services, and more prominently displaying on its website options for information in a community language.
RECOMMENDATION 12 _____________________________________________ 
That NSW Health considers creating positions of patient advocates to act on behalf of patients in complaints before the Commission and within internal complaint handling systems.
RECOMMENDATION 13 _____________________________________________ 
That the Ministry of Health give consideration toward devising policies that encourages a language shift away from ‘complaints’ and towards ‘feedback’, and that it be reflected in the terminology used by agencies within the Ministry of Health.