Responding to a Complaint

If a complaint is received regarding a doctor in your employment it is recommended to deal with the complaint directly and try to resolve them locally with the patient or the person that complains.

Why do people complain?

Many people have high expectations about treatments and about health service providers. People complain because:

  • they want an acknowledgement that something went wrong and an explanation why
  • they want an apology for the distress they experienced
  • they do not want other people to face a similar problem in the future
  • they want to improve the service for themselves or others in the future
  • they want someone to be blamed, punished or held accountable for what happened
  • they want compensation.

It is important to keep in mind that people generally complain because they are dissatisfied. A complaint can be an opportunity to increase understanding of the patient’s perspective. It can also help to improve the service that you offer.

Tips for responding to a complaint:

  • Acknowledge the complaint
  • Try to resolve the complaint directly with the complainant
  • Be aware of differing views of what happened and what was said
  • Reassure the complainant
  • Have a complaint handling mechanism already in place

Every complaint is different, so the approach to resolving it will differ depending on:

  • the nature of the complaint (the seriousness and the complexity)
  • the complainant’s wishes
  • the issues the complaint raises
  • how the complaint came to you.

Have a complaint handling mechanism already in place:

Evidence suggests that effective complaint handling and resolution decreases the risk of a complaint leading to legal action. Responding to a complaint will be easier if you already have a system in place to deal with complaints. This should include a practical mechanism by which complaints are welcomed, received, investigated and resolved.
Inform the consumers/patients about how you will manage their complaint. Responding appropriately to a complaint can restore trust and prevent a minor grievance from escalating.