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Denmark’s public health service to get simplified complaints system

Ritzau/The Local
Ritzau/The Local - [email protected]
Denmark’s public health service to get simplified complaints system
Copenhagen's Rigshospitalet. Denmark's patient complaints systems is to be overhauled. Photo: Ida Marie Odgaard/Ritzau Scanpix

The government wants to give patients of the public health system a simpler process if they want to lodge a complaint about their treatment.

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Both patients and relatives are to get new, simplified complaints guidelines, the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Current procedures require patients to state whether their complaint relates to a specific person or to their treatment in general. This will be changed, the ministry said.

All complaints will in future be termed forløbsklager or cases related to the treatment the patient received.

If health authorities uphold the complaint, disciplinary processes against individuals can then begin if deemed necessary.

Health Minister Sophie Løhde said that the new system would prevent “doctors and health personnel from becoming unnecessarily involved in cases which can be a huge burden for the individual.”

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The changes are based on recommendations from an advisory board appointed by the ministry last year. The board includes representation from a number of patient organisations.

Løhde last year promised government action after media reports uncovered serious treatment shortcomings in sections of the health system, notably at Aarhus University Hospital’s bowel cancer unit.

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A change in the complaints system will better identify structural issues, rather than placing the blame on individuals, the focus group said.

“The focus is on organisational responsibility and that fits well with the group’s recommendations that it should be clarified that it is the remit of management to quality control and ensure learning from complaints,” it said.

Figures from the Danish Patient Complaints Agency (Styrelsen for Patientklager) show that 3,743 complaints over treatment and 3,045 disciplinary cases were lodged in 2022.

Some 67 percent of the former, and 81 percent of the latter, complaints were upheld.

The Danish Medical Association (Lægeforeningen) said it supported the reform.

“It is first and foremost the healthcare system that must learn from mistakes, so it is very important that the primary focus of complaints is now on the overall treatment sequence,” chairperson of the medics’ association Camilla Rathcke  said in a statement.

“This will greatly strengthen both patient safety and the psychological wellbeing of health personnel in their work, but also ensures cases are reviewed in their entirety,” she said.

A bill to implement the changes is expected to be tabled in parliament by March.

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