Healthwatch England's report, 'Suffering in silence' calls the complaints system in health and social care 'utterly bewildering and largely ineffective'.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'It’s essential for better public services that people speak up when things go wrong, but too often people don’t complain because they don’t think anything will change or they don’t know where to go.
'We welcome Healthwatch’s recommendations to improve the complaints system. The Government should introduce a unified public services ombudsman and allow super-complaints, as in private markets, as soon as possible. It’s vital that people are easily able to make their voices heard and feel confident their feedback will trigger action.'
We've unmuted an exclusive music track by George the Poet and producer Jakwob, as 50,000 people sign up to our campaign for the Government to improve complaints handling in public services.
We are taking your stories and experiences to Ministers and calling on the Government to ensure that when people speak up, their concerns are acted upon.
Our executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'Thousands of people have told us that they feel their voices go unheard when things go wrong with public services. Working with influential artists has helped send a strong message that it's crucial for people to speak up, and now 50,000 people have joined our campaign calling on the Government to make complaints count.'
The Government must take action to give people the confidence that their complaints will trigger change in public services.
The Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) has produced a report calling for changes to the complaints procedure in public services.
The report, titled 'Time for a People's Ombudsman Service' suggests that the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) is outdated and that people should have direct and more user-friendly access to the Ombudsman.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:
'People often don't speak up when things go wrong in public services because they don't think anything will change, but feedback is vital to help improve services. When complaints are unresolved it's even more important there is an effective and proactive ombudsman to give people confidence that complaints do count.'
Mistakes, misunderstandings and maladministration
The report calls on the Ombudsman to be able to receive complaints other than in writing: such as in person, by telephone or online, just as is expected of any normal complaints system. It also suggests a consultation should be held on the creation of a single public services ombudsman for England.
Richard Lloyd said: 'We've been calling for a unified public services ombudsman to act as a one stop shop and deal swiftly with issues raised. We hope the Government now acts on these proposals and makes it easier for people to voice their concerns, which will help prevent the same things happening again.'
Bernard Jenkin MP, Chair of PASC, said that people have the right to 'complain about public services when mistakes, misunderstandings and maladministration occur.'
He added: 'We so often see that people complain not for their own benefit, but to ensure lessons are learned and the same mistakes are not inflicted on others.'
More than 13,000 people have supported our calls for action - you can help by adding your name too.
Our new research reveals a third of people who have experienced a problem with public services in the past year didn’t complain.
Some cited not knowing who to complain to and thinking it wouldn't be worth the effort as reasons as to why they didn't complain.
And even those who do complain aren’t always happy with the response. Four in 10 weren't satisfied with the outcome of their complaint and half felt like their complaint was ignored. Yet nearly nine in 10 of those who were dissatisfied with the outcome of their complaint didn’t take it any further.
Strengthening patient feedback in the NHS
Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director, said:
‘Public services are vital to everyone and if something goes wrong it’s crucial that people feel it's worth speaking up to help stop the same thing happening again. Barriers to giving feedback must be removed if public services are to deliver the high standards that we all expect.'
While the Government has announced new measures to strengthen patient feedback in the NHS in the last year we think there is still work to be done across all of public services, including in care homes and schools, to encourage people to share their experiences and help improve services.
We’re calling on the Government to be the champion of patients, parents and all users of public services.
We want to see a shakeup of the way complaints are handled, to give people the confidence that their complaints count and will trigger action. You can help by signing our petition and sharing your experiences of complaining or complimenting your public services.
Have you ever complained about your doctor or hospital?
One year on from the Francis Inquiry, there are still significant problems with people choosing not to complain about public services because they don't know who to complain to or think nothing will be done.
With public service reform high on the policy agenda, our research shows more needs to be done to ensure consumers feel empowered and their voices are heard.
We've found there are three key reasons why people do not complain when they have a problem with public services: scepticism that their complaint will have any impact, fear of repercussions, and lack of understanding about how to complain.
Our new website helps expectant mothers decide what type of birth they would like and explore local options.
The new free-to-use Which? Birth Choice site - created in partnership with BirthChoiceUK and supported by the Royal College of Midwives - gives expectant mothers all the information they need to know in one place so they can plan the birth they want. It brings together all the facts about local maternity services and provides women with personalised results based on their preferences.
Parents-to-be can also visit our baby and parenting hub for advice on a huge range of baby products and services, from choosing the safest child car seat to saving for your family.
We emphasise the importance of consumer power in driving improvements in public services. Whilst we welcome the choice agenda, we also recognise the limitations of choice by itself to drive up standards in public services. In this context responsiveness to the consumer voice is essential, and we make some specific recommendations to promote this. Other levers such as regulation, commissioning and professional networks are also crucial for ensuring quality in public services.
With an increasing demand for care services, a Which? investigation finds that over the last five years some local authorities have been restricting home care and increasing costs above inflation, leading to a widening postcode lottery in care costs.
Using Freedom of Information requests over the last five years, we asked councils in England and Wales what level of home care they provided each year from 2009 to 2013.
Our latest results show that more than 80% of councils now restrict care to those whose needs are ‘critical’ or ‘substantial’, up from just over 70% in 2009. Of the 26 councils who told us they offered care to people with ‘moderate’ or ‘low’ needs in 2009, only 12 continue to do so.
At the same time, of the 100 councils that responded about their care charges in both 2009 and 2013, around a third (36) have increased charges above the rate of inflation. Barnsley Metropolitan Council has increased its hourly rates the most, by 160%, whereas Tower Hamlets London Borough Council has maintained a zero charge policy and remains the least expensive council for care costs.
We called for the creation of a single public services ombudsman in England. The remit of the current Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) should be extended to cover private providers of public services and private healthcare.
Our new website helps students make more informed decisions about their higher education choices.
At Which? University you can search more than 30,000 full-time and part-time degree courses listed on UCAS and the profiles of almost 300 different UK universities and colleges.
Our advice articles are written by careers advisers, university experts and current students covering popular topics that will help you find, apply and get the place you want – from what admissions tutors are really looking for from your personal statements, to straightforward advice on student fees and finance, open days and maximising your graduate prospects.