Recognising the potential impact of complaints on staff

Ensuring Staff are supported throughout the complaint management process Privacy and Confidentiality Unreasonable Complainant Behaviour Resources available to Staff Human Resource Policies and Guidance Staff Training and Development

Healthcare staff may feel vulnerable when a complaint is made about them. It is very important to recognise that different individuals may have differing responses to the same complaint and may therefore require different levels or types of support.  A significant proportion of staff will experience varying degrees of stress as a result of exposure to a complaint.  It is important to be aware that staff can suffer from traumatic stress which is associated with minor or low level complaints as well as the more serious/high level complaints.  Individual responses may range from common uncomplicated stress-related reactions to the more complex post-traumatic stress disorder.

Staff may experience the following:

  • Feelings of incompetence and isolation.
  • Denial and avoidance of responsibility – discounting of the importance of the issues raised.
  • Emotional distancing.
  • Increased anxiety.
  • Overwhelming guilt in relation to the event itself and the impact on the Service User.
  • Guilt in relation to personal performance.
  • Poor insight.
  • Panic resulting in a fight or flight reaction.
  • Feelings of abandonment.
  • A desire to engage with the Complainant but fear as to how to conduct this communication.
  • Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).