Patient Feedback Systems for Health & Social Care Services: Healthwatch Briefing Paper

Over the summer of 2019, Healthwatch Brighton & Hove conducted research to gain a better insight into information that is available to people who are looking to make a complaint, raise a concern or provide feedback about health & social care services
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We wanted to understand how easy or difficult it might be for people to find useful information. We had hoped to raise our findings with city leaders last year, but our plans were disrupted by COVID-19. We are still keen to explore this topic further and will determine what we can do after lockdown has ended. In the meantime, we have decided to publish the findings of our review, which includes four annexes.

Summary of findings: 

The evidence used to produce this report shows that:

  •  A plethora of guidance has been produced to help service providers establish adequate feedback systems, but also to support patients when making a complaint.
  • Most services have developed their own guidance around how patients can provide feedback meaning that there is often little consistency.
  • Many local and charitable organisations have tried to simply things with the production of their own ‘How to’ guides and these are often much more patient focussed and accessible.
  • Local organisations have previously provided their recommendations for how to improve and simply feedback systems.
  •  Making a complaint about social care seems less clear than it is for health care services.
  • It is the view of Healthwatch Brighton and Hove that this overall lack of consistency makes it confusing and stressful for patients to know how to make a complaint – or instill confidence in existing systems. It is also our view that this position might mean that people will be deterred from making a complaint (with the subsequent loss of important intelligence).
  • Contained within the guidance that we reviewed we found examples of excellent practice (top tips, flowcharts and easy to understand leaflets).
  • Overall, we consider that the evidence set out in this report suggests there is room to significantly improve complaints services in the city and that a ‘one-stop’ shop for all patients might be an option.


The recommendations made by the various reports can be divided into the following: Overall, there is considerable agreement in all the reports about what might be done to improve their experience and their ability to give both positive and negative feedback.

1.   Information

How to give feedback easily, who and where to contact to raise a concern or complaint: 

  • They suggest it should be easier to give instant feedback, both positive and negative, as happens with most customer services.
  • Much more publicity inside health and social service buildings including GP surgeries about how to make a complaint.
  • Leaflets should be easily available, and provided in languages other than English. They should be ‘easy read’.
  • Information should be made available in local newspapers and publications, including for specific groups such as South London Press for the black community
  • BSL interpreters and text messaging should be provided for the deaf community 

2. Complaints Process

How the process is supposed to work when making a complaint

  •  A clear flow diagram of the process with timings which is readily available from an independent source is needed. Separate diagrams for different providers should exist, if necessary
  •  A template for a complaint letter giving examples of information to be provided would be beneficial
  • Text messaging and BSL interpreters should be available throughout process 

3. Support & Advocacy

How and where to get this independently from providers

  •  More publicity on where to get this support
  •  Advocates are needed with experience in learning difficulties
  • Advocacy services should provide text messaging and BSL for deaf people. 

4. Training

Some staff appear unaware of the complaints procedure:

  •  All staff should receive training on how to handle complaints
  • Complaint teams should have training in use of text messaging and how to book a BSL interpreter 


You can download the report here. If you need it in a different format, please contact us at or 01273 234 041.

Healwatch Briefing Report on Complaints & Feedback - June 2020
Healwatch Briefing Report - Annex A: Healthcare table
Healwatch Briefing Report - Annex B: Social Care Table
Healwatch Briefing Report - Annex C: Summary of local organisation research
Healwatch Briefing Report - Annex D: Results of desk based research table

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