Principles of Best Practice Complaints Management

Table 1: Principles of best practice that underpin the complaints management process
Requirement Demonstrated By
Openness and transparency  
  • A positive, open and transparent attitude to receiving, managing and responding to complaints in line with the HSE Open Disclosure Policy.
  • A willingness to engage with Service Users using a partnership approach to complaints management and patient safety.
  • Being open, honest and transparent in relation to all concerns/issues raised and in relation to the disclosure of any identified failures in the delivery of care/service.
Fairness, Dignity, Compassion, Empathy, Respect  
  • Recognising, promoting and protecting the rights of Service Users.
  • Early, open, non-defensive communication with the Complainant, treating them with fairness, dignity and respect.
  • Active listening skills – the Complainant is afforded the opportunity and time to tell their story, in an appropriate setting.
  • Being empathetic – putting yourself into the shoes of the Complainant and understanding things from their perspective and without bias.
  • Implementing the feedback process without fear, favour or prejudice towards the Complainant, the person or service about which the complaint was made.
  • Neither the Complainant nor the subject of the complaint should have a fear of recrimination of any kind at any stage of the process.
  • Any staff member found, after proper investigation, to be engaging or have engaged in victimising, punishing or exacting retribution on any Complainant will be subject to disciplinary sanctions.
  • Unreasonable complainant behaviour will not be tolerated and clear procedures should be followed in line with the relevant Standard Operating Procedure.
  • Both Complainants and staff members have an equal voice and are of equal importance in this process.
  • Accept, acknowledge and embrace all feedback from Service Users.
Privacy and Confidentiality  
  • All information obtained through the course of the feedback process must be treated in a confidential manner and meet the requirements of the Data Protection Acts 1988 and 2003, and Freedom of Information 2014. 
  • Ensuring that all information obtained is stored securely and separately to the clinical record.
  • Maintaining the privacy of all parties involved in/affected by feedback, as far as is reasonably practicable, including protecting the rights of staff to privacy and confidentiality.
  • Saying sorry i.e. apologising/ expressing regret is a key component in the complaints management process and in bringing the complaint to satisfactory resolution.
  • Learning from feedback is identified and appropriate action is taken to share this learning and to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence of the same event(s).
  • The learning from feedback informs service planning and quality improvement programmes.
  • Monitor the effectiveness of the complaints management process
  • Disseminate learning from feedback across the relevant parts of the organisation.
  • Include the use of feedback data as a measure of performance and quality.
  • The HSE recognises the importance of training and staff development in the feedback process
  • The feedback process including the complaints management process must be well publicised and be accessible to patients, Service Users, their families and representatives
  • Special attention must also be paid to the needs of people with special requirements (special groups) e.g. older people, children, people with physical and sensory disability, literacy issues and disadvantaged groups.