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Real Complaints

Enhancing the NHS Complaints Journey

The experience of making a complaint to the NHS often falls short of patient expectations, leaving patients and their families feeling frustrated and let down.

Two women speaking to each other passionately.

This together with the fact that the UK has the highest health litigation costs in Europe, means there are lessons to be learnt.

Real Complaints is a research project that uses both conversation analytic and ethnography research methods to identify key points within a complaints journey, and then aims to improve the communication surrounding them.

The strongest predictor for litigation is not medical error but dissatisfaction with communication, either within the clinical encounter or subsequently in the complaints handling process. A Healthwatch survey of 1676 adults reported that 60% either did not know how, or found it difficult to complain and 61% of complainants did not feel as though their complaint was taken seriously.

Ulster University and University of Stirling, supported by National Institute for Health Research have analysed real clips from complaint handlers and complainants. The team of academics and researchers are in the process of analysing which communication has been successful, and which less so. Once the data has been gathered, and analysed, the Real Complaints team will be in a position to train NHS complaint handlers in effective methods of communication. In turn, they hope to better support complaint handlers, reduce litigation rates and improve the complainants’ experience.

Supporting NHS complaint handlers

Branding the research project

a dozen eggs were approached by Dr Catrin Rhys, head of School of Communication and Media at Ulster University, to give the research group a visual refresh and update a website that no longer communicated what it needed to. A ‘liberal sprinkling of the a dozen eggs dust’ was the exact brief!

As the topic concerned is people focused but with research at the heart, we required a brand that felt approachable but professional. The overall impression needed to be clean – with a human touch.

Website design for Real Complaints

Mobile view of Real Complaints website

Alongside the team at Ulster University, we designed a website that could communicate the first stage of the research journey – the gathering of data and the call for participants. Overtime, the website will change to reflect the current needs of the research project, but for now it communicates the purpose and gives the viewer an understanding of the projects strands.

view website

(Built by Ulster)