headsmatter | Making a complaint in hospital
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Making a complaint in hospital

First of all make sure it is a complaint and not something you’ve simply not understood or misinterpreted.

Hospitals don’t operate like normal daily life. It’s a bubble full of whistles and bells and machines that bleep when you least expect it. The staff all wear uniforms and talk in NHS-speak. There are set times for doing things and only certain people can answer certain questions.

If you’re not sure you have a complaint, in the first instance speak to the person directly responsible for your person’s care IE the nurse. They usually wear blue and seem to be doing a million different things all at the same time. Which is half the problem because if someone  appears to be so busy, we probably won’t want to ‘bother’ them. We don’t want to be a ‘nuisance’  or ‘get in the way’. But if something’s not right then feeling guilty about telling someone only makes things worse. For you.

The truth is that they probably are too busy but they shouldn’t be. Your person is as important as anyone else and if the nurse can’t talk to you straight away make sure they do before they go off duty. Don’t wait until the next nurse comes on shift. You’ll probably have spent a long time torturing yourself and that’s when things can get out of proportion. What started as a concern becomes all out war as you try to explain the problem and the member of staff wonders why you didn’t say something earlier.

In the ideal world you’d sit down with the nurse and say what’s on your mind.

In the real world you’ll probably get a few minutes whilst they’re doing observations and your anxiety over the original concern is bundled up with frustration that the nurse isn’t taking you seriously.
Nurses are humans too but that doesn’t mean they can take your concerns lightly or make you feel like you’re a nuisance. Good ones won’t. Bad ones will make you want to scream. We know. We have.

Be clear and don’t apologise. Don’t be sorry for being worried or frightened. Worried about what’s not going right. Frightened because the person in the bed is someone you love. A good nurse will listen, try to reassure you and answer your questions. If they can’t answer your questions and they say they’ll ask someone else, make sure they do. Follow it up.

And here’s a tip.

Always appreciate nurses who give good care. Thank them and tell their line manager IE the Sister how grateful you are for the way they’re looking after your person and in some cases the whole family.
But if you don’t get a good response and the nurse is rude and/or doesn’t help you it’s equally important to report that to the Sister too.

What to do if this approach doesn’t work