Managing Unacceptable Complainants
The vast majority of people who complain about an independent healthcare provider act entirely reasonably. Occasionally, complainants may act inappropriately towards the staff involved in the investigation of a complaint for several reasons.
Information taken from the ISCAS Guidance for Managing Unacceptable Behaviour by Complainants May 2017 (updated 2019)
When a complaint is received at Sloane Court Clinic:
- A fair, reasonable and unbiased approach will be taken when responding to all complaints
- Staff will respond with patience and empathy.
- No material element of a complaint will be inadequately addressed or overlooked
However, in some cases complainants can exhibit unacceptable behaviour. At which point, an alternative course of action is required. Unacceptable behaviour includes:
- Persistent refusal to accept a decision made in relation to a complaint and that the complaints process has been fully and properly implemented and exhausted.
- Seeking to prolong contact by changing the substance of a complaint or persistently raising the same or new issues with multiple members of staff not involved in the investigation of the complaint and questions whilst the complaint is being addressed. (Care will be taken not to discard new issues which are significantly different from the original complaint.)
- Unwillingness to accept documented evidence of treatment given as being factual e.g., drug records, medical records, nursing notes.
- Denying receipt of an adequate response despite evidence of correspondence specifically answering questions.
- Refusing to accept that facts can sometimes be difficult to verify when a long period of time has elapsed.
- Demanding a complaint is investigated but that it is kept anonymous and without communicating with key persons involved in the complaint’s incident.
- Refusing to clearly identify the precise issues which need to be investigated, despite reasonable efforts by staff to help specify concerns, or where the concerns identified are not within the remit of the service to investigate.
- Focusing on a trivial matter to an extent that is out of proportion to its significance and continuing to focus on this point.
- Having, while a complaint has been registered, an excessive number of contacts with the service, placing unreasonable demands on staff, including leaving an excessive number of voicemails or emails.
- Recording meetings or face to face/telephone conversations without the prior knowledge and consent of the other parties involved.
- Making unreasonable demands or expectations and failing to accept that these may be unreasonable (e.g., insisting on responses to complaints or enquiries being provided more urgently than is reasonable or normal recognised practice and refusing to engage with and meet/speak directly with Sloane Court Clinic, thereby limiting the ability of Sloane Court Clinic to resolve issues raised).
- Threatening or using actual physical violence towards staff or their families or associates at any time - this will in itself cause personal contact with the complainant or their representatives to be discontinued and the complaint will, thereafter, only be pursued through written communication.
- Harassing or being abusive or verbally aggressive on more than one occasion towards staff dealing with their complaint or their families or associates, including the use of social media i.e., seeking to contact staff involved outside of the working environment or obtaining personal information via social media channels to intimidate staff. Complainants may be intimidating without being ‘abusive’.
If any behaviour in the context of a complaint is deemed unacceptable by Sloane Court Clinic Management as per the above list:
- The complainant will be contacted in writing by Sloane Court Clinic Management with an initial reminder of the expected code of conduct. If these terms are contravened, consideration will then be given to implementing other action.
- In extreme cases, Sloane Court Clinic reserves the right to take legal action against the complainant.
- Resuming regular interactions - Once complainants have ceased behaving unacceptably, they will be informed that the policy on unacceptable behaviours no longer applies if, for example, the complainant subsequently demonstrates a more reasonable approach or if they submit a further complaint for which the normal complaints process would appear appropriate. Staff discretion will be used in these cases.