§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. David Lammy)
I am publishing today "NHS complaints reform—making things right". It describes reforms to the National Health Service complaints procedure and sets out a programme to improve management of the whole complaints system, elements of which will be subject to the passage of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill.
The programme builds on the existing NHS complaint procedure, as well as wider initiatives, to introduce operational improvements focused on:
- making the system more flexible so that there are a range of ways in which people can express concerns about the services they have received,
- improving the local resolution stage so that formal complaints are more likely to be resolved, reducing the need for them to escalate unnecessarily,
- radical reform to the independent review stage, subject to primary legislation—by placing responsibility for it with the new Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection (CHAI),and
- making sure information about complaints and their causes are an integral part of the system that assures safe, high quality care, which is constantly improving.
We will achieve this through a combination of changes to the structure and operation of the complaints procedure itself, and by recognising the place 25WS complaints management has in the system for improving services and the quality of patients' experience of health care.
The need for primary legislation to establish CHAI means it will not be fully operational before April 2004. This dictates the timetable for comprehensive reform of the NHS complaints procedure as whole. In the mean time, we will pursue supporting initiatives to bring about improvements in the general approach to complaints in the NHS, and pave the way for the more substantive reforms in 2004.
Copies of "NHS complaints reform—making things right" have been placed in the Library.