A retrospective review of a random sample of written complaints made by, or on behalf of, users of psychiatric services to determine: (a) the number and nature of written complaints against clinical aspects of services in a mental health trust over a 1-year period; and (b) what information complaints provide about deficiencies in the quality of care.
Out of 325 recorded complaints in 1997, 192 concerned clinical aspects of services; 89% of complainants complained once. There was a roughly equal split between complaints about technical v. interpersonal aspects of care. Complaints were far higher from in-patient than from out-patient settings. Evidence that the complaints related to psychotic symptoms was rare. All complaints were resolved locally, but 28 responses by the team were judged unsatisfactory. In 39 cases further action was taken as a result of the complaint, but no disciplinary action was taken against medical staff.
Poor communication is likely to be at the root of many complaints. Room for improvement was found with respect to responses to complaints.
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