Table 1

Summary of evidence on complainants’ main remedies sought in healthcare (stage 1)

Domain*Complainants’ prioritisation†Description
Quality improvement18–26 HighStudies consistently demonstrate that patients and public find it most important that their complaint leads to quality improvement. Complainants often seek system-level care improvement rather than an intervention in their own care.‡
A patient-centric response18–26 Medium-highOf medium to high importance were outcomes related to the institution’s communication in response to the complaint, such as an explanation of how poor care could have occurred, an apology, or expression of responsibility.
Financial compensation19 20 24–26 LowMost studies found that patients and public perceive financial compensation of minor importance to healthcare complaints management.
Sanctions to involved professionals
18 20 21 23 24 26
LowImportance of sanctions to involved professionals (eg, a hard-hitting conversation or disciplinary action) was considered lowest of all outcomes, and further qualitative evidence suggests that patients and public often do not want their complaint to impact on involved staff.
  • *The four domains (ie, quality improvement, a patient-centric response, financial compensation and sanctions to involved healthcare professionals) or close variations thereof (eg, ‘correction’—lessons learnt, system change25) were consistent outcome measures identified in included studies.

  • †Complainants’ priority ratings were developed by the reviewers based on results of included studies that examined: relative proportion of remedy domain sought by complainants21 23–25 or importance ratings attributed by complainants to the various remedy domains.18 20 22 26

  • ‡Only four out of nine articles18 20 25 26 specifically distinguished between quality improvement in their own care (eg, ‘I want a solution to my problem’26) and quality improvement at a systems level (eg, ‘to prevent it happening to others’26). All four studies indicated that complainants more frequently seek, or attribute higher scores of importance to, system-level quality improvement.