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Initial response to complaint has ‘greatest impact on overall outcome’


Aged care providers need to implement strategies to better handle complaints from residents and their families as they transition to the single quality aged care framework, an industry conference has heard.

The initial response of a provider to a complaint, an apology and open disclosure are key to resolving complaints internally, according to the office of the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner.

The “golden moment”, which refers to the provider’s first response to the person complaining will have the greatest impact on the overall outcome of the complaint, said assistant aged care complaints commissioner Shona Moloney.

“This could be the difference between the complaint being relatively straight forward or becoming increasingly complex [with] a lot of consultation and communication involved,” Ms Moloney told the Nurses in Management Aged Care conference in Brisbane last week.

“Something as simple as an apology can reduce the anger and distress that people are feeling.”

According to a September 2017 survey of 212 people who complained to the commissioner, 65 per cent had first tried to resolve the issue with the service provider. Of these, 80 per cent complained to the commission because they were unsatisfied with the response they received from the provider.

“When people approach us with complaints we often see that early acknowledgement and a good apology really does go a long way to take the heat out of the issue, allowing the parties to focus on resolving the issue,” Ms Moloney said.

Implementing an open disclosure process is another strategy aged care providers should implement to better handle internal complaints, she said.

Open disclosures should include an acknowledgement of the incident, an explanation of what happened and why and, where appropriate, the actions taken to prevent it from happening again.

Aged care providers will be required to prove they have an open disclosure practice in place when an issue arises when the single quality aged care framework replaces the current accreditation standards on 1 July.

The Department of Health and the Aged Care Quality Agency are working with the Aged Care Complaints Commissioner to develop greater awareness of the complaints commissioner for people in aged care and ensure that people feel safe to complain.

“There is the need to ensure that people know about us and continue to come if they have concerns they cannot resolve themselves,” Ms Moloney said.

“There is also the need to ensure people feel safe to complain, especially for the most vulnerable who don’t have families or are unable to complain themselves,” she said.

The Final draft Aged Care Quality Standards and Application of Final draft Aged Care Quality Standards by service type are available here.

Final NIMAC

Last week marked NIMAC’s final Australian conference after more than 20 years of annual events following the decision to close the 30-year-old professional association.

NIMAC was first established in 1989 with its membership exclusively for registered nurses working in aged care but broadened to include a wide range of positions in the sector.

The professional association is closing due to NIMAC president Pam Bridges stepping down and no suitable replacement being found, a spokesperson for NIMAC told Australian Ageing Agenda.

The organisation will close after the completion of its final study tour to Canada in September.

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2 Responses to Initial response to complaint has ‘greatest impact on overall outcome’

  1. Kathryn Price June 27, 2018 at 4:53 pm #

    That “golden moment” is such a precious thing in complaint handling. It takes skill and awareness for an organisation or individual to set aside the normal human reactions of defensiveness when someone brings feedback that feels negative. But if we can actively listen to the person bringing a complaint and respond with empathy and acceptance of their experience, great results can be so much easier to achieve for everyone involved.

  2. Barbara Connor June 28, 2018 at 4:44 pm #

    The facility where sadly my mother is doesn’t have ‘complaint forms’, they have ‘continuous improvement’ forms. This makes it easy for the complaints to become hidden and the form is highly ambiguous.

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