Objective: To synthesize experiences of the patient complaints process for patients and health-care professionals to identify facilitators and barriers in the successful implementation of patient complaints processes. This will assist the development of cultural change programmes, enabling complaints managers to incorporate stakeholder perspectives into future care. Design: Systematic literature search and meta-ethnography, comprising reciprocal syntheses of “patient” and “professional” qualitative studies, combined to form a “line-of-argument” embodying both perspectives. Data sources: MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsycINFO (database inception to April 2015) were searched to identify international literature in primary and secondary health-care settings, involving qualitative data collection and analysis. Further studies were identified from hand-searching relevant journals, contacting authors, article reference lists and Google Scholar. Results: A total of 13 papers, reporting 9 studies from the United Kingdom, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, were included in the synthesis. Facilitators and barriers to the successful implementation of patient complaints processes were identified across the perspectives of both patients and health-care professionals. Patients sought to individualize the complaints process by targeting specific professionals who engaged in practices that undermined the identity of patients. In contrast, professionals obscured their own individualism through maintaining a collective identity and withholding personal judgement in relation to patient complaints. Conclusions: Complainants recognized health-care professionals as bearers of individual accountability for unsatisfactory care, in opposition to the stance of collective responsibility endorsed by professionals. Implementation of patient complaints processes must reconcile the need for individualized resolution, whilst striving to improve the future provision of health care through a collaborative approach between patients and professionals.
- patient complaints
- patient dissatisfaction
- patient perspectives
- professional perspectives
- qualitative research synthesis