The healthcare profession, has some one of the highest levels of compulsory vetting for employers, involving an interview, work-shadowing, provision of two references and an enhanced DBS check. But despite that, it is inevitable that some rogue individuals will end up working in the industry. It is essential that you have good training and maintain robust safeguarding and whistleblowing policies. However, it is still quite likely that at some point you will get a complaint from a service user or relative, or a report from a staff member or third party and it’s vital that this is handled correctly.

Investigating a complaint

As you investigate, you’ll need to bear in mind your reporting obligations to safeguarding and the Care Quality Commission (and the police if the issue is that serious). The more severe the issue, the more thorough your investigation is expected to be. You will be balancing your duty to ensure that the service users are cared for in the best possible way and treating your staff fairly. This can be a difficult line to tread, particularly if you are under pressure from customers and/or regulators.

Dealing with staff

You’re also going to be mindful of the expense if you’ve had to suspend a member of staff (as well as the stress this will cause them). If you do decide that there is enough evidence to call the individual into a disciplinary hearing, then you need to carefully frame the allegations with reference to the evidence you’ve gathered. If the outcome of the meeting is dismissal, you’ll then need to demonstrate that you’ve weighed all the evidence, reached a reasonable conclusion and considered alternative outcomes.

And if you conclude that there was a failing on the part of your service and that has caused discomfort or injury to a service user, you may also have obligations under the duty of candour. As you may be aware this sets out the procedure you must follow and imposes financial penalties if that is not done.

For further information on how to handle complaints and carry out an investigation, see our guidance here.

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