Handling complaints poorly makes problems worse, says NHS ombudsman

BMJ 2010; 341 doi: (Published 20 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5874
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. 1London

The NHS needs to learn to say sorry when mistakes are made, says the health service ombudsman for England.

The ombudsman’s first report under the new complaint handling system for the NHS emphasises that poor complaint handling can make a difficult situation worse for patients and their families. It also concludes that poorly handled complaints can escalate, creating unnecessary demands on NHS resources.

The ombudsman, Ann Abraham, said, “When things do go wrong an apology can be a powerful remedy: simple to deliver and costing nothing. If a mistake is not in dispute, the ombudsman’s input should not be necessary to ensure the NHS takes responsibility for the error. Too often it …

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