Medenta’s Eleanor Young looks at how to correctly deal with complaints…
As a practice you may encounter patients who wish to make a complaint because they are dissatisfied with the service or the treatment they have received.
It is never a nice situation to be in when someone makes a complaint, however it is important that you follow all the specific guidelines to ensure all the correct boxes are ticked.
What we advise practices to do is to have a complaints handling policy in place that mirrors the Financial Conduct Authority Rules on complaint management, which I will take you through now.
Types of complaint
Complaints can be made in a number of ways such as face to face, by phone or in writing, and the first thing you need to do is identify the type of complaint being made.
Is it in regard to the treatment a patient received, is it about the finance or is it an issue relating to the delivery of the treatment?
All complaints relating to finance or treatment plans paid for via finance need to be recorded and reported to the FCA, so, in order to make sure you are using best practice we’ve adopted an FCA standpoint throughout this module.
How easy is it to resolve a complaint?
When you first receive a complaint, you need to assess how easy it is to resolve or whether it will need a further investigation. The FCA believes three business days strikes the balance between allowing firms long enough to handle complaints and ensuring there is a timely response.
If you can resolve a complaint in three working days then it won’t fall under the FCA timelines on full complaint handling and instead, you would need to send and record a summary resolution letter advising as to how the complaint has been dealt with.
Investigating, assessing and resolve complaints
Once a complaint has been received it is important for a practice to investigate it competently, diligently, and impartially, and they should assess fairly and promptly the subject of the complaint and whether it should be upheld and what remedial action or redress may be appropriate.
A practice should also decide whether they should involve Medenta or Wesleyan Bank in order to resolve the issue, particularly if it relates to the finance itself. For example, complaints relating to the time taken to provide an outcome to an application or issues following a payment should be reported to Wesleyan Bank.
FCA rules on complaint management
If you think the complaint needs further investigation, then you will need to ensure you do the following:
- Send an acknowledgement to the patient within five business days
- If the complaint is unresolved after a month, a holding letter needs to be sent to inform the patient of the progress and an expected resolution timeline.
- Within eight weeks a final response letter should be sent detailing the steps taken to resolve the complaint. This should detail the patient’s right in regards to contacting the ombudsman if the they remains dissatisfied.
What happens if a complaint can’t be resolved?
If the complainant is still unhappy, they have the option to seek further redress via the following channels. If the complaint relates to treatment, the patient can approach the GDC, CQC, Dental Complaints Service or a solicitor.
If the complaint relates to treatment, they could approach the GDC, CQC, Dental Complaints Service or a solicitor. If the complaint is regulated, for example the practice has failed to deliver the goods and services set out in the agreement, the patient can take the complaint to the ombudsman.
Not dealing with a complaint or following the correct complaint handling process could leave a practice or individuals subject to penalties.
Any complaints going to the ombudsman will automatically incur a £550 registration fee for the practice in question, and they will also be liable for redress if the complaint is upheld, plus a potential payment for any stress or inconvenience caused.
The FCA can take enforcement action and withdraw the practice’s permissions to operation. The GDC may impose conditions, sanctions, a lengthy further investigation, suspension or even removal from the register and the CQC has a full range of enforcement powers.
Also, Medenta and Wesleyan Bank can suspend your contract and therefore remove your ability to offer patient finance.
Recording regulated complaints
All regulatory complaints should be recorded with your internal policy and reported to the FCA via your Gabriel return, if applicable. In order to comply with FCA rules, a record of all complaints should be kept for three years.
It is also important to undertake a root cause analysis to assess the issues behind the complaint and put necessary steps in place to avoid a re-occurrence of the issue.
At Medenta we’re always here to help so if you need any assistance or guidance on dealing with complaints, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with the office team. Alternatively, for further guidance please refer to the relevant section of the FCA handbook of the financial ombudsman website.