Understanding the dynamics of Concerns, Complaints and Claims in a healthcare setting

Linda Mulcahy and Joe McAulay are funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) from January 2019 to December 2023.

The project is part of a much larger programme of research into adverse events, legal claims,  risk and quality management in the health services that is being undertaken by the Quality, Safety and Outcome Policy Research Unit (QSO PRU).  QSO PRU is a collaboration between the University of Oxford, University of Kent, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the Picker Institute and Hull-York Medical School. This 5-year project aims to develop a unified approach to producing robust, relevant and usable research designed to improve the quality, safety and outcomes of the health and social care system. QSO PRU’s work is framed by five interrelated themes:

  1. Appropriate measures of quality and outcomes for whole health and care systems
  2. Learning from specific (adverse) incidents
  3. Undertaking and addressing system and population level variation in quality
  4. Resolution after harmful events
  5. Identifying effective approaches to implementation of systems to promote quality

Research being undertaken at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies falls under the second and fourth themes.  Using a mixed methods research the research team are mapping the architecture of the numerous parallel and overlapping redress systems that exist in the NHS; gathering statistics about the use of each process and the ways in which lay users navigate the current landscape.  In addition to formal procedures, we are also exploring informal avenues open to people to voice concerns such as interactions with Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) teams, online platforms such as nhs.uk, and social media sites. Little is known about the use of these informal procedures, which are not included in official statistics on NHS complaints. This research aims to explore the interrelationship between the various informal and formal avenues of complaint and redress.