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Poor complaints handling ‘poisoning’ good public services – PASC

Leadership failures and a culture of denial in handling complaints within public services is what leads to failures like the Mid-Staffs hospital disaster, says the Commons Public Administration Committee (PASC).

In a new report – More complaints please! – it reveals that failures to recognise the importance of complaints leads to insufficient redress for the individual, limits the impact that complaints have in improving services, and alienates the public.

Bernard Jenkin MP, chair of the committee, said: “There needs to be a revolution in the way public services are run, and how the public perceives government. As things are, most people believe there is no point in complaining.

“The shocking collapse of care at Mid-Staffs hospital should be a warning to the whole public sector that too many managers in public services are in denial about what their customers and their staff think about them.”

PASC has recommended that the government should appoint a minister for policy on complaints handling to provide leadership from the top; ensure the Cabinet Office’s review of complaints handling changes attitudes and behaviour; and create a single point of contact for citizens to make complaints about government departments and agencies.

“There are encouraging signs of increased attention to good complaints handling, but the government itself does not comply with best practice in complaints handling or adapting to the needs and expectations of today’s citizen,” added Jenkin. “This starts from the top.  government itself needs to lead by example. That’s why ministerial leadership is crucial.”

The report concludes that a“complaint is a complaint... nobody should be shy of the term ‘complaint’... other euphemistic terms for ‘complaint’ should be banned”.  PASC has also stated that success depends on the right leadership of public services which values complaints as critical for improving, and learning about, their service.

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