Complaints are inevitable in any clinical work that involves patient contact.
The labour ward is a particularly likely source of complaints. The Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints Regulations 2009 oblige NHS organisations to have arrangements in place to deal with patient complaints.
The duty of candour is a statutory duty to be open and honest with patients and/or their families when something goes wrong. It applies to all health and social care organisations.
It is important to deal with complaints in a prompt manner; there are standards for the timescale for acknowledging a complaint, undertaking the necessary investigation and replying with the outcome.
It is noteworthy that many complaints are based on misunderstanding or mis-communication, rather than real error or inadequate care. In the case study, the patient cited some items that had been misunderstood, for example blood transfusion (blood from the cell-saver was used, as previously agreed). Even when a complaint is based on misunderstanding or misinformation, a thorough investigation is still necessary to clarify such misunderstanding or misinformation.
Findings from investigations are communicated to the patient in writing, accompanied by an invitation to meet to discuss.
Failure to deal with complaints promptly and adequately can lead to more misunderstanding and ultimately litigation.