Stage One – HSE Point of Contact Resolution


Resolution of complaint (verbal or written) at Stage One: Point of Contact

All HSE staff must aim to resolve complaints they receive at first point of contact, if possible.

Stage 1 PathwayFeedback (comments, compliments and complaints) may be given to any member of staff, it is therefore important that all frontline staff welcome feedback and are trained to respond appropriately to feedback from Service Users.  It is important that all staff see this as an opportunity to improve local services. 

  • HSE staff are empowered to respond to feedback and where appropriate know how to report them through a known and consistent process (Your Service Your Say, the Management of Service User Feedback for Comments, Compliments and Complaints). 
  • HSE staff should always respond positively and appropriately to anyone who provides feedback, be it, comment, compliment or complaint.  They should acknowledge the feedback in an open and honest way, thanking the Service User for their comment or compliment and demonstrate empathy and understanding if a complaint
  • Establish what the Service User expects from providing their feedback.
  • For complaints, the HSE staff member must first and foremost ensure that the Complainant’s/Service Users’ immediate healthcare needs are being met, as appropriate, before dealing with the issue.
  • If local staff are unable to deal with a complaint personally they should at point of contact provide reassurance that it has been listened to, understood and then outline how this complaint will be handled beyond this point.
  • Provide an apology/explanation where possible and avoid apportioning blame, being argumentative or defensive.
  • Staff should only attempt to manage complaints received at the point of contact if due care has been taken to establish that all issues can be addressed appropriately at the point of contact.
  • Where staff have resolved all issues of a complaint at Point of Contact then a Point of Contact Complaint Resolution Form should be completed and forwarded to their Line Manager.

See also Supporting Staff: Training (eLearning Tool)

Note: In the course of receiving a verbal complaint a staff member is not expected to tolerate personal abuse or aggressive behaviour from a Complainant / Service User.

Complaints that cannot be resolved at Stage One: Point of Contact

There are a variety of reasons why a complaint should not be managed at Stage 1 of the process. The key reasons include:

  • The complaint involves too many issues to resolve at the point of contact.
  • The complaint was a result of harm/incident or a near miss and requires further investigation to identify and eliminate the root causes.
  • The complaint was as a result of deviations from quality standards that require further investigating to identify the reasons for the deviation and if there are any system improvements required.
  • The complaint involves multi-disciplines and multi-locations and involvement of all parties is required to effectively and fairly investigate the complaint.

If it is not possible to resolve the complaint to the satisfaction of the Complainant at the first point of contact, the person receiving the complaint must advise the Complainant:

  • The reasons why the complaint cannot be resolved at the point of contact;
  • That they may escalate the verbal complaint to their line manager, who must resolve within (< 48 hours) two working days;
  • If the line manager cannot resolve the verbal complaint, they should complete a Point of Contact Complaint Escalation Form with the Complainant and escalate the matter to the relevant Complaints Officer;
  • What will happen with their complaint in the HSE complaint management process.

If requested by the Complainant, the staff member or Line Manager may provide assistance to the Complainant to make a written complaint.

Recording of Stage One: Point of Contact Comments, Compliments and Complaints

Service Users may offer feedback in the form of a comment that raises issues of concern without wishing to make a formal complaint.  In many incidents they simply wish to provide their views on the service provided or advise staff of their observations and on how things might be done differently.  Potentially this feedback may identify shortcomings or areas for improvement.

Service Users can also offer feedback that is positive and complimentary identifying areas of good practice.  Compliments are of considerable value and help the HSE to identify good practice, ensure that good experiences are maintained and share this positive practice throughout the organisation.

In some instances Service Users may need reassurance, additional information, advice and support or may simply wish to just talk to someone to share their experiences.   Not all feedback will require a response. 

It is therefore necessary for all staff to be able to distinguish between and identify issues that constitute either a comment,  compliment, a Point of Contact complaint or a formal complaint, using their judgment and discretion and to make the Service User aware of the options and the distinct processes for dealing with each.

Arrangements should be made that all Service Users, carers, families and visitors are aware of the various feedback processes and have access to the relevant information which will help them, if they wish to provide feedback including making a complaint.

Feedback may be in the form of views expressed orally or in writing as part of a survey, patient questionnaires, and initiatives, such as patient experience or stakeholder engagement.  The feedback received through Your Service Your Say plays an important part in capturing information on Service Users’ experiences.

In line with Recommendation 14 of the Ombudsman’s, Learning to Get Better report (link) addressing concerns at local or point of contact level should be the main focus for each service area.  All staff should be provided with the appropriate training to allow them to deal with issues as they arise.  

In line with Recommendation 19 of the Ombudsman’s Learning to Get Better report, a standardised information system for the recording of comments and compliments must be developed across each service area. 

Recording and capturing the local feedback data is vital for analysis and learning, identifying trends, informing quality improvement and learning for better healthcare outcomes

In the absence of additional add-on modules (Point of Contact Comments, Compliments and Complaints) to the National Complaints Management System (available 2018) every effort should be made to capture this data locally. See Sample spreadsheets;

Data captured should at the very least include the following:

  • Detail of the comment, compliment or complaint
  • Action taken / solution
  • Learning (if any)

These guidelines will be updated as modules come on-line.  This information will be distributed through your local Consumer Affairs Office

Timeframes for the Management of a Stage One: Point of Contact complaint (verbal or written informal)

Every effort should be made to resolve a Point of Contact complaint immediately.  Where these Point of Contact complaints cannot or should not be resolved at the first point of contact they should be referred to the Line Manager.

The Line Manager will endeavour to resolve the Point of Contact complaint within < 48 hours (two working days).  If this is not possible the complaint (Point of Contact) must be escalated to the relevant Complaints Officer.

At any stage, the Complainant has the right to request that their complaint be escalated to Stage 2 of the process.

Training will be provided for all staff to enable them to deal with feedback from Service Users.