Publication date

Patients' dissatisfaction with complaints handling in hospitals.

Sluijs, E.M., Friele, R.D. Patients' dissatisfaction with complaints handling in hospitals. European Journal of Public Health: 2005, 15(Suppl. 1) 143. Abstract. 13th Annual EUPHA Meeting "Promoting the public's health: reorienting health policies, linking health promotion and health care", Graz, 10-12 November 2005.
Background: In 1996 the Client Rights of Complaint Act was issued in The Netherlands. Since then,
patients complaints are being handled by independent complaint committees according to legal
regulations. Despite this patient centred Act, many patients appeared to be dissatisfied with the
way in which their complaints were dealt with, even when the complaint was judged as founded. We
investigated why and found some answers. Methods: Patients who lodged a complaint against the
hospital completed a questionnaire at the start and at the end of the complaint handling (six months
later). Patients’ expectations and ambitions at the start were compared with their experiences at
the end. In this pre post design, 424 279 patients, respectively, completed a postal questionnaire
in 2003, as well as 76 complaint committees. Dependent variable is patient satisfaction; independent
variables are characteristics of the complaint handling procedures. Results A total of 36% of
patients were dissatisfied with the way in which their complaint was judged by the committee. Many
more patients (65%) were dissatisfied with the (legally required) response of the hospital.
According to patients, hospitals had often not responded at all or not responded with correcting or
preventive measures. However, the main reason for the majority of patients (94%) to lodge a
complaint was the ambition to bring about a change in the hospital: ‘this should never happen
again’. A minority of patients (7%) wanted a financial compensation. Conclusions: Patients’
dissatisfaction concerned the hospital more than the complaint committee. Hospitals should inform
patients about improvements made as a consequence of complaints. (aut.ref.)