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We’ve sent your public service complaints to political parties

Make complaints count illustration

One year ago, following on from concerns raised by our supporters and readers, we launched our campaign to Make Complaints Count in public services. Now we’re sending our report to the political parties.

Over 60,000 of you have backed our campaign, and we’ve received 14,000 stories detailing your experiences of trying to complain about care in hospitals, care homes, or problems with schools and universities.

They’ve been a big help and we’ve read each and every story that has come through.

What you told us

Some of the stories have been distressing to read, like Richard’s:

‘My brother-in-law died due to incompetence in hospital. The complaints system was stacked against his widow, my sister, and she eventually abandoned her complaint because of the difficulties she faced.’

Some have left us concerned with how people fear being victimised. Sophia’s story is one of these examples:

‘I am afraid to complain about my care. Whenever I have done, my care has become much, much worse.’

Ila’s experience shows that even when someone makes the effort to raise a concern, it doesn’t necessarily result in changes:

‘We’ve raised concerns about our parents’ experiences in hospital, and whilst staff have listened sympathetically, we have had no confidence that any real action resulted.’

And others just left us angry and have kept us focused on ensuring others don’t have to suffer in the future, like Sharon’s story:

‘My mother suffered the most appalling indignities and had her basic human rights stripped while living in a care home. Institutional abuse is rife and is not even noticed. Staff who recognise it soon become part of the problem as whistleblowers end up being either ostracised or sacked.’

Our research has also found that at least 5.3 million people who had a problem with a public service didn’t go onto complain. 5.3 million. That’s a lot of problems going unheard and unresolved.

What we’re doing next

We’re incredibly grateful to each and every one of you that has pledged your support to the campaign, and for each of you that has submitted a story. Today we are sending the political parties a report on the problems we’ve found with the complaints system, and what we believe needs to be done to start to make complaints count.

Once the General Election is over, this will be one of our priorities for the next government to fix.

Have you ever tired to complain about a public service, but felt you weren’t heard? Or have you wanted to complain, but never actually went through with it?


I think this is a really worthwhile campaign. I think the mood of the country right now will support it – people are looking for more compassion with their austerity.

We cannot treat this like any other consumer issue; care home residents have very little choice over where they can live and conditions can change. They are not consumers but captives in a system that, in many ways, resembles the cultures prevailing in Victorian workhouses and the county asylums [although there were also many excellent examples of good care and welfare among those institutions]. Making Complaints Count really has to be the starting point for reform much of which would then be self-fulfilling, I feel.

In 2009 I had very good cause to complain to the Care Quality Commission regarding the treatment which involved actual physical assault by another patient to a close relative in a privately run care home.

This proved to be an extremely stressful time for me, involving the exchange of numerous letters, reports and interviews with medical staff, advocacy services, solicitors and the local HealthTrust and I would not wish it upon anyone, but the good news is that I was successful in the immediate removal of my relative from the care home which eventually, following further investigation by the CQC, I am pleased to say has now been closed down.

I am glad now that I played a part in the closure of the care home as other patients would be spared the neglect and ill treatment which was quite endemic at the time.