HC Deb 09 February 1976 vol 905 cc84-6W
Mr. Carter-Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether she is able to announce her decisions on the Davies Report on hospital complaints proceedure.

Mrs. Castle

The report was published in December 1973 and there have been consultations on the Committee's detailed recommendations. My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I accept the main recommendation of the report that health authorities should have a uniform written code of practice for handling complaints. We believe that this code should be extended to cover the handling of complaints outside the hospital other than those relating to family practitioner services for which there is already a formal statutory procedure. There will be consultation about the details of the code with Health Service authorities, staff organisations, professional bodies and other interested organisations before it is implemented.

The Davies Committee also recommended that an investigating panel should be established in each Health Service region to investigate complaints, at present outside the jurisdiction of the Health Service Commissioners, which could be the subject of litigation. Most complaints of this kind involve the exercise of clinical judgment. This proposal has been criticised on a number of grounds. A particular aspect of concern is the danger of possible overlapping of functions between the Panels and Health Service Commissioners and consequent confusion to the public. With the agreement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland we have therefore invited the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration—which includes the Health Service Commissioners within its remit—to undertake a review of the present jurisdiction of the Health Service Commissioners for England, Wales and Scotland affecting the hospital services having regard to the regard to the recommendations of the Davies Committee about investigating panels.

Meanwhile we think that the improvements which the proposed code of practice should bring about, together with the opportunities which the Health Service Commissioner provides for the independent investigation of complaints, will do much to ensure that complaints are answered fully and fairly.