ANNUAL REPORT 2013 Adjudicating Complaints for the Independent Healthcare Sector
Foreword by Sally Taber, Director of ISCAS
This is the 13th year of the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service, ISCAS, which we formed in response to a report by the Health Select Committee. Essentially derived from best practice of the members of the trade association serving independent acute hospitals, it added the element of external adjudication by an independent body, which enabled both complainants and providers to find closure of otherwise intractable complaints under a code of practice which is equitable and fair. Free to consumers, the adjudication process fosters a culture of learning, and assures the consumer that the complaint has a positive result.
The ISCAS Annual Report goes to subscribing members of ISCAS, government, professional and system regulators, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the general public via its website. It has been my endeavour to put best practice in handling complaints into the forefront of our subscribing member’s minds, and to this end we have in 2013 revised and reformed the Code of Practice and expect our members to further develop their complaints management procedures to reflect these improvements.
During this year, a review of cosmetic interventions by Sir Bruce Keogh recommended that all private healthcare complaints in England should be handled by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The report adduced no evidence that ISCAS (to which over 90% of independent acute hospitals in England belong) was failing consumers. We believe that a public funded agency would be ill-suited to the independent healthcare sector, and have therefore put forward to government the successful ISCAS model as the foundation of a complaints management code to be mandated for the whole independent healthcare sector. This would be regulated by the Care Quality Commission in England, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales in Wales, Healthcare Improvement Scotland in Scotland and the Regulatory and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) in Northern Ireland.
We do recognise that ISCAS serves only the healthcare providers already committed to high standards of consumer service. There are many healthcare providers who will have no recognised independent review process and this undoubtedly gives rise to difficulties. During recent years we have extended the reach of ISCAS in conjunction with the Independent Doctors Federation, whose fast growing membership encompasses doctors who are in independent practice. Patients of such doctors who need to complain now have a recognised route to resolution. In other cases we have invited new clinics to adopt the ISCAS Code – specifically the Private Ambulance Service and BCAM (British College of Aesthetic Medicine), thus extending its protection further to patients.
With our codes’ recognition as suitable for the organisations they inspect, we believe that the CQC could do more to require other clinics to adopt the ISCAS Code, for the ultimate benefit of patients. Be it noted, ISCAS is not toothless, removing from membership more than one provider who has failed to abide by the Code; and reporting to the professional and system regulators instances of concern.
ISCAS is built upon the principle of openness, appropriately in this era of the increasingly well-informed patient.
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