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Complaints Procedures

Volume 80: debated on Tuesday 11 June 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to establish complaints procedures for community health services as well as for hospitals.

The Department's guidance on complaints procedures already covers the handling of complaints about the community health services. There are, however, no centrally promulgated procedures for handling complaints relating to the exercise of clinical judgment by medical and dental staff working within the community health services. We are considering the possibility of promulgating such procedures, with the interested professional organisations.

asked the Secretary of State forSocial Services what plans he has to enable community health councils to monitor complaints received by family prac-titioner committees and for the provision to the public of information about family practitioner service complaints.

Under arrangements introduced this year family practioner committees are required to compile annual programmes which include information concerning the incidence, pursuit and resolution of complaints. Previous conventions on confidentiality will be retained. The information collected will be made available to community health councils. In addition, community health council representatives are entitled to attend meetings of family practitioner committees. We expect family practitioner committees to publish extracts from their annual programmes locally including those relating to the incidence and outcome of complaints.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what plans he has to establish complaints procedures covering hospitals with an agency arrangement with the National Health Service.

The Department's guidance on complaints procedures in the hospital and community health services already covers the handling of complaints from National Health Service patients being cared for in registered homes under contractual arrangements.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to establish guidelines for the monitoring of complaints by health authorities and community health councils and for the publication of information about hospital complaints.

The Department's guidance on the handling of complaints in the hospital and community health services requires health authorities to have systematic and effective methods of reviewing complaints and to publicise their complaints procedures. The Hospital Complaints Procedure Bill currently before Parliament would lay a duty on my right hon. Friend to direct health authorities to establish and publicise specified procedures. We shall be reviewing the existing procedures in the context of this, in consultation with all interested organisations.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he intends to issue guidance requiring health authorities to deal thoroughly and expeditiously with complaints when either another complaint from the same person or about the same person is the subject of litigation, or a part of the complaint is the subject of litigation.

We have advised health authorities that all complaints should be investigated thoroughly and fairly and as quickly as circumstances permit. We have also advised that legal proceedings or the likelihood of such proceedings should not deter authorities from undertaking any immediate investigation of a complaint that may be necessary.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what plans he has to establish a complaints procedure for hospitals directly managed by his Department;

(2) if he will introduce legislation to prevent National Health Service doctors entering into contracts which would impede investigations pursuant to the Hospital Complaints Procedure Bill.