“A single public services ombudsman is just the first of the reforms needed” – Which? response to Healthwatch’s seven point action plan on complaints

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“Healthwatch is absolutely right to recognise that a single public services ombudsman is just the first of the reforms needed to make the complaints system work effectively. Millions who had a problem with a public service last year didn’t complain so it’s clear more needs to be done to encourage people to speak up.

“We agree that giving people access to an independent source of support will help more people feel confident to voice their concerns. We also want to see the introduction of super-complaints, as in private markets, and complaints triggering action from the regulators.” ​


  1. Previous Which? research found that 5.3 million people who had a problem with a public service didn’t go on to complain. Of those who did not complain 35% said it was because they felt nothing would be done about the problem and 35% felt it would not be worth the effort.

Six in ten (62%) would be more likely to complain about a public service if there was greater support to help them through the process and seven in ten (71%) would be more likely to if they knew it would result in direct action.

Methodology: Populus, on the behalf of Which?, conducted an online survey of 4,058 UK adults between 6th – 12th February 2015. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults.

  1. Our ‘Make Complaints Count’ campaign now has over 85,000 supporters and is calling on the Government to pledge to be the champion of patients, parents and all users of public services by committing to:
  • Requiring all regulators of public services to use complaints to trigger inspections;
  • Giving people access to independent support to help them complain;
  • Introducing a single public services ombudsman to deal with complaints effectively; Allowing representative groups to make super-complaints on behalf of those impacted; and
  • Ensuring whistleblowers are listened to and their concerns acted upon.
  • People can support the campaign at www.which.co.uk/publicservices
  1. A sample of the 20,000 stories we heard from supporters:
  • “My brother-in-law died due to incompetence in hospital. The complaints system was stacked against his widow, my sister, and she eventually abandoned her complaint because of the difficulties she faced.” – Richard, West Midlands
  • “I am afraid to complain about my care. Whenever I have done, my care has become much, much worse.” – Sophia, South East
  • “We’ve raised concerns about our parents’ experiences in hospital, and whilst staff have listened sympathetically, we have had no confidence that any real action resulted.” – Ila, South East
  • “I am fed up of my complaints being ignored or passed around, and everybody else is blamed instead. I am physically drained by the way I am treated and ignored, that I do not have the strength to complain anymore.” – Joanna, London
  • “My mother suffered the most appalling indignities and had her basic human rights stripped while living in a care home. Institutional abuse is rife and is not even noticed. Staff who recognise it soon become part of the problem as whistleblowers end up being either ostracised or sacked.” – Sharon, East Midlands

You can see the full report and stories here: www.which.co.uk/psdossier.

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