Peer Review Panel – a common complaint?

16/06/2016 by Amy Gaskin-Williams

We’ve been running Peer Review Panels since January 2015 and this follows on from the development of National Standards for implementation across the NHS as a result of the Public Inquiry report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire Hospital carried out by Sir Robert Francis QC.  The report talked about a tangible and measurable reflection of the organisations commitment to an open and responsive safety culture when it comes to complaints.  Getting service users, carers and volunteers involved in reviewing complaints was our answer to it.

We started by arranging a training course facilitated by the Patient Association who developed the national standards. This meant those wanting to get involved knew what they were getting involved in.  This training session is now offered regularly so new people can always join the team. The panels consist of a mix of people from different disciplines, lay persons and experts in the process. There are some members who were originally trained and who have remained involved throughout and others who have joined as we’ve gone along. 

The other strength to this has been the partnership working we have developed with Nottingham City Care Partnership with staff and volunteers from both organisations taking part in the reviews.

Outcomes of the Peer Review Process

·         We’ve improved time frames and a monitoring system was developed to prompt letters to the complainant to keep them informed.

·         Enhancement of acknowledgement letters to include named handler and offer the opportunity to have a verbal response alongside all the other information provided, timeframe, advocacy and details of complaint.

·         Introduction of new documentation including the Complainant Management Plan and risk assessment

·         Identified what we did well:

o   response letters were considered positive and comprehensive

o   It has given us confidence that what we were doing was of a good standard

·         All the information leaflets have been reviewed and updated to incorporate best practice

·         Less complainants coming back to us dissatisfied with their response

·         Letting all complainants know that they have the option of going to the PHSO but this is still minimal.

·         General improvement in the process due to awareness of and familiarity with standards.

·         Reminder to keep focused on the patient experience throughout the whole process, particularly in terms of good communication and regular contact with complainants.

·         Clearer evidence of escalation process when necessary.

·         Improved quality of investigations due to more rigorous quality checking and review One-to-one support and mentoring of managers throughout the investigation process, ensuring adherence to standards.


Both Nottinghamshire Healthcare and City Care have benefitted from the partnership working

Benefits of working with another organisation

·         Learning from each other and seeing how things are done elsewhere

·         External scrutiny challenges us to maintain high standards.

·         Sharing best practice

·         Opportunity to for support and discussing challenging cases

·         Increased involvement of peers with wider experience

·         Benefits for volunteers in terms of seeing how other organisations work

Rachel an Involvement Volunteers had this to say about being involved in this project:  Quote from lay member: “I was inspired by the new complaints review project, looking at the way complaints received by the Trust are dealt with, so much so it has encouraged me to take forward making my own formal complaint to the CAMHS service following a negative experience. I am amazed by the different responses and the tone of the different responses varying from complaint to complaint. Each response is so different. The responses need to be more sympathetic to the complainant and conducting these reviews have enabled us to look at ways to improve these standards in the future. The input we put into these process reviews, I am sure will make a huge difference to how complaints are managed in the future. It has been a very worthwhile project and I am looking forward very much to doing more in the future.”