Relatives & Residents Association

We support, inform and speak on behalf of older people in care


Complaints and concerns – an opportunity missed?

Blog Post by Des Kelly OBE, R&RA Trustee

3 March 2017:Opening the AGM and Annual Conference of the Relatives & Residents Association held on 28 February 2017 Judy Downey (Chair) spoke of the sometimes harrowing calls received by the R&RA Helpline. She highlighted the calls over the last 12 months with this summary:


Concerns about care:                     37%

Human rights:                                 20%

Poor management:                          9%

Financial:                                        13%

Legal:                                               7%

Admission:                                        5%

Evictions:                                          1%

General:                                            8%


These are the classification of calls to the Helpline over the 12 months period to the end of March 2016. These figures highlight a trend over recent years to a greater proportion of concerns that are care related. Care issues now account for around two-thirds of the Helpline calls with the other third relating to financial and administrative concerns. R&RA records show that this is a trend that appears to be continuing as the proportion of care concerns being reported grows. What are we to make of this?


Percentages are one thing but the number of monthly calls is something else. There are a lot of calls. Too many obviously!   Perhaps not surprisingly they cover every aspect of care provision with standards and quality topping the list and an alarming proportion where there are multiple concerns being raised. Human rights, safety, assessment, care planning, admission and choice all feature highly, along with management and staff attitudes.

 behind these figures are the human costs of things going wrong

The statistics tell a familiar negative story of the care sector and especially of care home provision. The reality, of course, is that behind these figures are the human costs of things going wrong. Sadly, every call to the R&RA Helpline is an indication of a failure of some sort.  Trust and confidence in a service has broken down. Complaints procedures are not working or communication has been undermined.


R&RA has a lot of experience of handling calls from people who are distressed or angry or who simply want to know their rights. The organisation’s independence from providers, commissioners, regulators and government means it is in a unique position to offer advice, guidance and support. This relationship with the sector has led to the development of practical ways to promote best practice with resources such as the Keys to Care resource, practice guides and events such as the conference this week with the theme ‘Living Well and Looking Good’.


The conference included presentations on good prescribing in care homes, dental care and dementia, the importance of hearing care and hairdressing. All with practical, common sense advice on the need for greater awareness of the implications of personal care for physical and mental health and wellbeing. It would have been good to have had a greater attendance of managers and staff working in care settings to participate in the discussions, not least because most of the debate was unusually upbeat and positive. The charity isn’t afraid to speak up about standards, inspection and regulation, or the need for staff training. It will continue to do so. Learning from complaints and concerns is such a vital part of quality improvement. Care providers can only benefit from being open to the views expressed by relatives.


Back to the latest news


020 7359 8136

Open 9.30-4.30 Mon-Fri

We take the time to listen

Our Helpline advisers are real experts in the care field and happy to cope with referrals from other advice or befriending lines when more in-depth knowledge is needed.

Read More

View Case Studies

R&RA twitter feed

Subscribe to our e-Bulletin

* indicates required