/ Health

It’s your prerogative to complain if things go wrong

Jakwob in the studio

It’s been a busy day at Which? HQ as we counted towards the 50,000th signature on our Make Complaints Count campaign. With this last signature, we unmuted a track to encourage others to find their voice…

If you don’t know the story, I’ll fill you in briefly. At the start of July we issued a video clip teasing the potential release of an exclusive music video, produced for Which? by spoken-word artist George the Poet and music producer Jakwob.

We wanted to recreate the feeling experienced by those who feel powerless when complaining about public services, or those who feel their feedback is not acted to.

‘It’s Yours’ – Jakwob featuring George the Poet

Today we reached 50,000 signatures, which unmuted this music video:

Throughout the campaign people have shared their support in a number of ways – through their signatures, sharing our campaign or leaving their feedback. Liam said:

‘George the Poet says what a lot of people think but he is in a position to be heard. Support him and hopefully people will listen.’

The fact that George is a poet prompted a few people to leave their views in rhyme (the challenge is there for you to do the same of course!). Trevor told us:

‘I have always maintained, if something is a pain, make sure you complain. If you don’t, nothing will get done, and that will not be any fun.’

NHS complaints must be acted on

It’s not just those who make complaints that want action. An NHS complaints handler on Facebook told us:

‘As a complaints handler for the NHS in Kent and East Sussex, I think this is particularly important.’

We’re taking your feedback to Ministers and calling on the Government to ensure that when people speak up, their concerns are acted upon. And in the words of our campaign supporter Christina:

‘People who have a genuine complaint should feel that they can speak out and be heard and that their concerns will be taken seriously and investigated.’

Have you ever tried to make a complaint about a health service you’ve received – or have you complained about another public service and had success?

annette magee says:
13 August 2014

over a month ago EBay for some reason changed my user name, I was owed a refund of £28.00 which I now have no access to.
It seems Ebay is the worst place to have a problem with purely because their system seem to take you around in circles.
I did complain through a web suggestion to contact BBC WatchDog, which I did and then asked Ebay again what had happened and got no reply, surely they must have a user friendly system of reaching a happy conclusion to complaints.?

Angie says:
13 August 2014

After getting a nasty whack on the head, this is a safety hazard I reported when using a Cambridge Park & Ride. I cannot believe the replies and lack of responsibility I have received from the bus company and Head of Passenger Transport Services for Cambridgeshire County Council

My Email:
Today, 5th August 2014, my husband and I used the Trumpington Park & Ride service.

On the return journey about 16:30 we sat behind the stairs facing the side of the bus in a group of 3 seats directly opposite the wheelchair area. I was on the end nearest the stairs.

The bus jerked suddenly and my head hit a horizontal rail on the side of the stairs.

It is nearly midnight and my head still hurts from the impact prompting me to inform you of this safety hazard.

Please seriously consider removing this rail at head height. The seats are narrow and the bar is in a really stupid place right next to your head.

Reply from the bus company:

Thank you for your e-mail below.

Firstly I must apologise that you have had to raise such matters.

The current design specification of our vehicles on the Park and Ride routes meet the current DPTAC agreed criteria. The bus manufacturers who design and build vehicles do have them tested accordingly before they are permitted so be sold and placed into service. Unfortunately we are not able to modify the vehicles in any way.

We do ask that drivers pull away smoothly and also drive the vehicle in the same manner at all times. As the vehicles are automatic, when the driver releases the brakes the bus should move forward slowly and with ease.

From the information you have very kindly provided I have been able to identify the driver and vehicle in question. Please rest assure I will complete a full investigation in to this incident and then if necessary follow this up with our internal procedures which we have in place here at Stagecoach Cambridge. This may include further internal training and/or lead to disciplinary action if required.

Due to employment law in this country which states that matters relating to employer/employee relationships are confidential. This confidentiality extends to disciplinary matters following any misconduct or poor performance; therefore I am sure you will fully understand that I am unable to discuss this matter with your good self.

I sincerely apologise that you have had to raise such matters but would like to thank you for taking the time in doing so as it is only with such feedback can the appropriate action be taken.
Yours Sincerely
Head of Customer Services


Not satisfied with the above reply I then forwarded the emails to Joseph Whelan
Head of Passenger Transport Services for Cambridge:

Dear Joseph Whelan,

First of all, please read the lower portion of this email then the reply from T Holgate. As I consider the reply to be unsatisfactory, I have found you as Head of Passenger Transport and hope you will look into this matter.

First of all, I am not after claiming compensation. I highlighted a hazard and a sensible reply would have been to investigate and rectify the situation not just blame the driver.

Vehicles might have to make an emergency stop at any time and this horizontal metal bar beside the passengers head could cause a real injury. As my head was turned to my husband in the next seat, the bang to my head just missed my ear which would have been very painful indeed.

I hope you will take this more seriously than T Holgate.


His reply:

Many thanks for your e-mail. I am sorry to hear about the incident and understand your concern about safety for other passengers on the bus that you travelled on.

I am sorry to inform you that safety and design of buses is not something that the County Council has any powers over. As such the Council is unable to request any action from bus operators in this regard.

However the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency is the organisation that has responsibility in relation to the safety of buses.

The website can be accessed using the following link: https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving/vehicle-safety

I hope you find the website helpful and I am sorry that I cannot be of more help.

Joseph Whelan
Head of Passenger Transport Services

Every day hundreds of bus passengers suffer bruising and other injuries because they have come into contact with handrails and grab-poles as a result of sudden movement by the bus. This is rarely the driver’s fault but a response to traffic and the condition of the public highway. A bang on te head is a horrible experience and there must be something dreadfully wrong with the positioning of this handrail.

The letter from the bus company seems to be accusing the Disabled Passengers Transport Advisory Committee [DPTAC] of requiring the provision of a handrail at a height that will present a hazard to a passenger sitting where you did. I bet there is no such requirement. There are numerous standards for bus specifications to ensure that they are accessible by, and make suitable provison for, disabled people but I should be most surprised if they actually specify handrail locations; the various internal configurations of each design of bus body would make such a specification impractical. There must be a better way of providing handrail support if needed at that location without compromising the safety of other passengers [it might need some crafty engineering or an internal redesign, and it might cost more money or reduce the capacity, but that’s irrelevant]. In any case, there must be a derogation procedure which the bus operator could invoke where a specification was clearly hazardous in its practical interpretation in a particular design of vehicle that was in all other respects compliant.

The other odd thing in the bus company’s reply is the [ungrammatical] phrase “Due to employment law in this country which states that matters relating to employer/employee relationships are confidential”. This sounds like a standard response that is trotted out whenever a passenger complains about an employee’s competence, conduct or behaviour [which you did not, of course]. In general. it probably is better to keep ongoing disciplinary matters confidential, but that is only “best practice” – it is not a legal requirement. Good labour relations would probably suffer if there were no confidentiality, but “employer/employee confidentiality” should not be used as a smokescreen to cover up managerial inaction, delinquency, or indifference, espcecially in a public service. If after the the promised “full investigation” there was a case for disciplinary or capability action, and such action was taken to a conclusion, it would be perfectly proper, as well as in the public interest, to tell the complainant the eventual outcome. There would be no need for the company to name the individual employee. There can be any number of sound reasons for a jerk on the bus; the offender is not the driver but the stupid handrail [and the ignorant management that refuse to see it might be wrong]..

Very detailed Angie and I admire your perseverance. If you are to travel on that bus again it would be helpful to know the make of the bus and any physical dimensions. A picture is worth a thousand words also.

My attitude is it happened and either there is a design fault or alternatively you were sitting in an way that the design procedures have not considered and is unlikely. If I were you, as a point of information I would contact the bus bodywork constuctor and outline the incident and ask did their testing reveal this as a problem. It may be they contract the testing out OR the risk is at an acceptably low level!

There is a site called Fix my Transport but it leaves problems in your own hands when knows, like this one ,that Call centres on remits ,do not recognise Individuals. So they have abolished Head Offices to carry on the defrauding with monitoring bodies & Government complying as using same prescriptive automatic set ups for the public services .
I spend days dealing with these inappropriate call centres directed by accountants.When it is your Bank, LA, hospital it is not amusing .It has resulted in cardiac arrest.
If they had to pay a lot of compensation this would stop in an instant.
If you stand up to be counted you are labelled & libelled with no one assisted .There are too many advice agencies doing nothing that are a scam .Even the Charities are doing it.When Doctors no longer take the hippocratic oath you have to ask why??!!