Ensuring Staff are supported throughout the complaint management process

When a Complaints Officer receives a complaint under Part 9 of the Health Act 2004 (does not include e.g. Trust in Care, Children First, Safeguarding etc.), and includes reference to staff, the Complaints Officer is obliged to seek their version of events, in line with the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness.  This means the Complaints Officer must identify the staff member(s) and notify them a complaint has been made about them.

Line Manager

Line managers’ are responsible to support staff during this process as requested and required.

  • Ensure that the staff member is afforded their right to fair and just procedures and processes and that their right to confidentiality is maintained.
    • Advise the staff member of their rights to seek support and advice from their trade union representative/professional body/insurer/HR department.
  • Provide support and advice on other processes e.g. legal proceedings, fitness to practice hearings, Coroner’s inquests, etc.
  • All managers and staff should be familiar with the relevant policies and procedures e.g. Sick Leave Policy, Your Service Your Say, The HSE Service User Feedback Policy 2017, Open Disclosure Policy, Safety Incident Management Framework, Policy for the Prevention and Management of Stress in the Workplace, Policy for the Prevention and Management of Critical Incident Stress., Trust in Care Policy, etc.  Provide copies or information to staff on how to access the relevant documents.
  • Provide the necessary initial emotional, practical/social/behavioural support(s) as per the individual needs and preferences of the staff member.
    • The Line Manager may need to refer the staff member to Occupational Health Department / Employee Assistance Programme, as appropriate.
    • Provide details of a contact support person.
  • Provide a copy of the staff support booklet e.g. Supporting staff following an adverse event: The ASSIST ME Model. (link) The importance of support for staff from line managers, colleagues and peers in the event of a complaint should not be underestimated. Being available for staff and knowing his/her story surrounding the complaint is crucial. Staff may require a safe and confidential space in which to discuss the events giving rise to the complaint and can find this therapeutic. The “ASSIST ME” model of staff support has been developed to assist managers and staff during this process. This has been adapted from the Medical Protection Society’s A.S.S.I.S.T model of communicating with service users following adverse events in healthcare.
  • Assess workload and adjust/reassign to other duties, as appropriate.
  • Support and work with staff to identify any additional training or information they may need
  • Arrange a date and time for a follow up meeting.

Complaints Officer

The Complaints Officer must ensure the staff member’s rights to procedural fairness and natural justice are maintained throughout the lifecycle of the complaints management process.

The Complaints Officer must ensure that support is provided to the staff member in the form of:

  • Informing the staff member of :
    • allegations made against him or her, and following investigation,
    • the grounds of proposed adverse comment and adverse findings
  • Time to deal with and respond to the complaint.
  • Listening objectively to their side of story.
  • Informing the staff member that they have the right to be accompanied during the course of the investigation of the complaint if they wish
  • Emphasising that the focus is on resolution as opposed to blame.
  • Emphasising that focus is on process improvement.
  • Affording the staff member, where the proposed report contains a finding or criticism adverse to that staff member, the opportunity to consider the finding or criticism and allowing them to make representation for consideration.