Dealing with complaints
In the first of a four-part series exploring some of the most common dilemmas faced by frontline practice staff, the AOP’s head of clinical and regulatory, Henry Leonard, advises on complaints
24 March 2023
Most patients are very satisfied with the service they receive when visiting their local optometry practice. However, things can go wrong from time to time, so it’s important for the practice team to know how to deal with complaints when they arise.
Some complaints can be dealt with on the spot, whilst some more serious concerns may require an investigation and formal response
Protocol and process
Every optometry practice should have a complaints procedure which is available to patients, setting out how the organisation will respond to formal complaints. If it’s not possible to deal with a complaint on the spot, you can explain that the practice has a complaint procedure, and invite the complainant to put their concerns in writing, so these can be addressed formally.
Practice owners are ultimately responsible for responding to formal complaints and should seek advice from their indemnity provider or professional body on the correct process to follow. To investigate the complaint properly, it’s often necessary to ask the members of staff involved to provide a short, written statement about the incident. If the complaint were to escalate, these statements could be disclosed to an investigatory body, so registered practitioners should be given a copy of all relevant information (usually the complaint and relevant clinical notes), and advised to contact their professional body for advice and assistance with their statement. Once the statements have been gathered, the practice owner can then draft a suitable response, with input and assistance from their own indemnifier or professional body.
If you’re responsible for dealing with verbal complaints at the practice, try to listen carefully to the complainant’s concerns and use open questions to explore what’s happened
Further information on dealing with complaints, including template acknowledgement letters and complaints procedures for all four nations, can be found on the AOP website.
Henry’s three tips for dealing with a complaint
- Listen – ensure the complainant feels heard
- Communicate clearly – use open questions and ask about their desired resolution
- Seek advice from your indemnity provider or professional body if a complaint is made formal.
About the author
Henry Leonard is head of clinical and regulatory at the AOP.