ADVICE ON COMPLAINT MEETINGS
- If you are unhappy with a written response to your complaint, then you can ask the NHS Provider/an organisation/authority for a meeting to discuss outstanding issues. Meetings can be very helpful particularly where there are complex medical issues. However you should be well briefed and be prepared for these meetings which are termed in the NHS as Local Resolution Meetings (LRM’s).
- Although the NHS Provider/organisation/authority does not have to agree to a meeting, if they do not, then they have to give good grounds for a refusal as this would escalate the complaint to the Health Service Ombudsman (/www.ombudsman.org.uk). When a meeting is agreed, it is advisable for you to discuss the format of the meeting with the Complaints Manager/organiser of the meeting beforehand.
It is recommended and suggested that you find out the following:
- What form will the meeting take?
- Who will attend? You may not want to see staff members who have been involved in your complaint. Alternatively, you may want to insist that certain staff who were involved should attend and if this is refused, ask for written reasons as to why they cannot or will not attend.
- Prior to the meeting and if you are able to, then carry out some background work on guidance, legalities, your rights, who is who in the organisation, some history of the organisation, facts and figures. If you have an Advocate, they will help with this.
- Prepare notes before the meeting. It is always a good idea to make a numbered and concise list of your questions for the meeting and to give a copy of this to the Complaints Manager before the meeting. Make sure you have a copy to take with you to the meeting.
- Think about taking a friend, relative or Advocate to the meeting for support and to take notes. It is always a good idea to have someone with you, preferably an experienced NHS Complaints Advocate who can support you. If not take someone who is able to sit and listen whilst you talk and receive answers.
- If someone is coming with you, advise the Complaints Manager/ Organiser of the meeting that an advocate or other person will be present.
- Ask where the meeting will be held and how long it will take. If your issues are protracted, a meeting any longer than one and a half hours is difficult to manage or remember.
- Ask for the meeting to be digitally recorded with a copy CD given to you. If this is not possible, ask for contemporaneous notes with action points to be taken, not bullet points. Ask that a full copy of the notes from the meeting be provided or if a CD is provided, a brief typed outline of the action points it contains.
- Practise your questions beforehand, play out the meeting in your head, anticipate answers, have counter responses ready, play these through in your mind. Read the law: any guidance on these particular issues, have this with you, highlighted ready to read out.
- Use Guidance anyway, when you are asking some of your questions.
- Ask for some water to be available or take water with you.
- In the meeting, work systematically through your notes and your questions. Always take notes of what is being said and by whom, making a note of their name.
- Make personal notes within your notes to yourself to help you remember to take a few deep breaths, important key words you wish to remember, affirmations to yourself like “keep calm”, “slow down” etc. A meeting is an emotional and draining experience.
- Ask open ended questions. Close-ended questions are those which can be answered by a simple “yes” or “no,” while open-ended questions are those which require more thought and more than a simple one-word answer. For example: Why did this happen? How exactly did … ? What types …? Why is it …? How do you ..? In what way ..? Instead of: You should do this shouldn’t you? Yes. That’s not good enough is it? NO.
- Don’t be bamboozled and put off by jargon and professionals’ terms and others eloquency with words! Stop and ask what jargon and certain words mean, write it down. There are so many “buzz words” and terms used, any words you are not clear on ask for them to be explained. Do not be embarrassed, just ask. We do not have to be eloquent and good with words to put our point across. Come from the heart and everyone will understand you.
- If you find the meeting overwhelming or confusing, ask for a break for a few minutes or say you need to pause. Re-focus on the points you wish to raise and get across. Don’t be intimidated or rushed, drink water, breathe deeply and slowly, stop, re-focus. This is your time.
- In the meeting if things are going too fast, then ask for the meeting to be stopped to allow you time to note-take or get your thoughts together. Also, there may be distressing issues discussed and you may not feel able to continue so discuss with the Complaints Manager/organiser of the meeting about necessary breaks if things become emotional or difficult.
- Keep checking that you are not speak too quickly, slower and taking care to not raise the pitch of the voice if you can and volume is better to be understood and you are taken more seriously.
- Don’t worry if you break down, this is natural, just take stock and re-focus and carry on, everyone will have to wait and understand this is a serious and emotional issue to for and should be for them!
- If you feel your point is not being understood, role play / act out the parts of the scenario you are trying to explain. Explain you do not want any misunderstandings, you want to make sure everyone understands and this may make it clearer for complainee.
- Do not agree with anyone or anything at the meeting that you are not sure about or have reservations about concerning what has been put forward as an answer to your question.
- Once you have received explanations and apologies where appropriate, you may wish to ask the professionals present, what is going to change, who is going to be responsible for these changes and when and how?
- At the conclusion of any meeting inform the Complaints Manager/organiser of the meeting that you wish to have a full written response and agree a date when this will be forthcoming. Clarify what has been decided and get confirmed all action points that need to be addressed from the meeting. State that you would like to be advised of an action plan with target dates and a report of progress submitted to you with results as necessary.
- If you don’t feel there has been time to cover everything you wanted to, ask for another meeting
- Ask how you can you be involved with the NHS Provider/prganisation/authority to help them avoid a repeat of this incident or something similar happening again. How could your lived experience be used to help them make positive change? Perhaps in Hospital Ward Visiting or Patient Experience Forums or in Focus groups or other Patient Associations/Relatives Groups where you can be involved to help make a difference to service provision.
- Finally, and most importantly, on the agreed date when you will be contacted by the Provider after the meeting, if you haven’t heard anything contact the Complaints Manager/organiser of the meeting. It is most important that you follow up the Provider/organisation/authrority’s responses by making diary dates which are kept to. Make sure that you are contacted within the given time and chase and chase again. If for any reason and repeatedly, you are not able to connect to the Complaint’s Department/organiser of the meeting when you telephone, then contact the Chief Executive’s Department or head of the service or organisation. Don’t allow time scales to slip without good reason, as it is important that matters are resolved within legal time scales. This is necessary should you wish to or have a need to take the matter to litigation.
- After your meeting, if the NHS provider/organisation/authority considers that the matter has been adequately addressed and there are no further outstanding issues (even if you think there are!) , then they must inform you in writing concluding this stage of the complaints procedure and also inform you of the next stage of the complaint’s process. You can then escalate the complaint to the Ombudsman if appropriate and if you are not satisfied.
- Always remember throughout your complaint that you have rights, which are to:
– have your complaint dealt with efficiently, and be properly investigated.
– know the outcome of any investigation into your complaint.
– take your complaint to the Independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you’re not
satisfied with the way the NHS has dealt with your complaint.
– make a claim for judicial review if you think you’ve been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an
– receive compensation if you or your relative has been harmed through medical negligence.
ALWAYS KEEP TO THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR MIND! If there is any defensiveness shown in your meeting.
You are entitled to raise a complaint, have every right to a meeting, and if complaints were not heard learning would not take place, everyone should complain. Meetings are very difficult – you are doing a good job.
IF ANYONE WOULD LIKE TO MAKE SUGGESTIONS ABOUT OTHER POINTS WE CAN ADD TO HELP PEOPLE WITH THEIR COMPLAINT MEETINGS, PLEASE EMAIL OR WRITE TO WHERE IS THE CARE, THANK YOU.