Should I say sorry? How to handle complaints – and how to learn from them

While patient feedback can be difficult to hear, showing empathy may help resolve issues

While negative feedback may be difficult to hear, an empathetic approach can often prevent complaints escalating

  • Nurses are often the first point of contact for angry or upset patients and relatives
  • Empathy, good listening skills and a willingness to apologise can often de-escalate a situation – and may be what the patient is seeking
  • Tips, advice and tools for dealing with complaints and learning from negative feedback, even during the COVID-19 pandemic

The NHS in England received more than 208,000 written complaints in 2018-19 – an average of 572 a day.

Figures from NHS Digital show that most related to inpatient care, with poor communication


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