‘Complain’ – despite the frustrations

I put ‘.’ around the word ‘complain’ because as a senior executive of a private hospital recently pointed out to me (more on this below), it should be regarded as feedback which gives an organisation or person a chance to rectify the error or omission.

The British in particular seem reluctant to bring problems to the attention of those who can do something about it. So some of my neighbours moan to me about a silly little parking squabble but don’t say anything to those who can do something about it. And many moan to me about ‘happenings’ in the NHS but again that’s as much as they do.

Of course, most of the time you will be frustrated and feel you are wasting your time, as I did when after I and my wife had telephoned our local ‘cottage hospital’ – the Wharfedale Hospital – many times to try to cancel an appointment – to be unanswered, cut off or directed to a machine which didn’t take messages. Yet when I finally got through, the receptionist refused to accept what I told her, repeating “But the phone is always answered”.

I was equally frustrated when I ‘complained’ to a large local NHS hospital that my 90 year old mother had been kept on a trolley for 11 hours on admission because, it seems “patients cannot be given a bed until they have seen a doctor and no doctors were available”. Or ‘complaints’ directed to the Chief Executive of our local housing association which are passed down to a ‘customer service manager’, resulting in the usual ‘form’ letter and no action.

This post was originally going to be about how the private hospitals to which we can now be referred by our GPs are just as bad as the NHS ones. This followed a couple of administrative errors from one of them. But I’m pleased to say that this was one of those rare occasions which backed up my contention that you should always ‘complain’.

I sent an email outlining my complaint to the Chief Executive, who was on leave at the time, but it was picked up by another senior director and …

What a difference! The senior director immediately arranged to meet my wife and myself. He explained what had gone wrong, why it had gone wrong, and the measures the organisation had taken to ensure it did not happen again. This was followed up by a letter confirming everything that had been said at the meeting.

Unfortunately I don’t feel able to name the organisation concerned because, in view of the rapid and effective response, I don’t think the original error should be publicised as I first intended.