Make Complaints Count webinar on the Complaint Standards Framework: Q&A

Thanks to everyone who attended our Make Complaints Count webinar on the new Complaint Standards Framework for the NHS. While we tried to address as many questions as possible, there was not time to cover all of the issues raised. Below are the questions we were unable to answer.

Q: Who helped to develop the Framework?

A: We have worked with a wide range of organisations across the healthcare sector, including regulators and professional bodies, the Department of Health and Social Care, Advocacy groups and NHS staff. We have also incorporated views from members of the public through focus groups and service user groups, including via our public consultation.


Q: How long will the Complaint Standards Framework take to implement?

A: We recognise that it will take time to implement the Framework across the NHS. For PHSO and its partners, we are aiming to embed the Framework into our work as quickly as we can after the final version is published. We then aim to begin benchmarking how the NHS handles complaints via the Framework, and will set out publicly how we intend to do this.


Q: How does this differ from the Principles of Good Complaints Handling, Principles of Good Administration and Principles for Remedy?

A: We have incorporated much of the Principles of Good Complaints Handling and Remedy into the Framework, however, the Principles focus on how we expect organisations to deliver services in the first instance.

Feedback from NHS staff told us that, while this is useful as a broad guide, what they needed was something more practical. The Framework will deliver more detailed guidance and training to help ensure that the expectations of the Principles are practically delivered. 


Q: Can we really say that complaints are a valuable source of learning when most of the issues which cause dissatisfaction are things trusts already know about?

A: Yes, research published alongside the draft Framework strongly suggests that there is much to be learnt from complaints. When finalised, the Framework can be used to help organisations develop a more coherent learning culture, which can then be assessed by regulators and by PHSO.


Q: Will there be training available for senior managers and exec teams, and who will provide this?

A: We are looking at how we can design leadership modules to introduce the Framework into an organisation’s governance arrangements. We are working with our Framework partners to deliver this, and are seeking funding for this work as part of the current Comprehensive Spending Review.


Q: How many nurses, doctors, consultants, health care providers and allied health professionals engaged with the consultation? How were their views garnered?

A: We have held sessions and focus groups with a range of NHS staff and their networks. Our regulator partners have also used their engagements to share the Framework and hear the views from as many people as possible. The public consultation is open until 18 September 2020, and is another way to share views. We are keen to hear from everybody, including patients, their families and those who deliver healthcare services.


Q: Is there a workspace on the NHS Futures platform for the Framework?

A: We will look into this further to see how we can work together via NHSF’s collaboration platform.


Q: How will organisations who agree to sign up to the CSF be recognised?

A: Our plans, subject to securing funding, include running centralised training on the Framework and – in time – delivering formal accreditation for complaints staff. In the meantime, we will report on how organisations are embedding the Framework, gathering feedback from staff and service users


Q: Who will be responsible for making sure the staff involved in complaints have had the training dictated in the CSF? What will the penalties be for the staff not having the training and how will this be monitored?

A: There will be no penalties as the Framework is, at this stage, non-statutory. It is also designed to support and develop staff, as is the case in Scotland where a statutory framework is already in place. PHSO will look to work with regulators and others to support organisations and report on their progress in embedding the Framework. This includes what is being done to train and develop staff in complaints handling.


Q: In the experience of myself and many others, you don't abide by the standards you have already published. If you're not going to do this, why keep creating more?

A: While not everyone will be happy with the outcome of their investigation, PHSO is committed to fairness, transparency and independence. The Complaint Standards Framework is a way of helping public services reflect these values in their own complaint handling.


Q: Is mediation possible only for patients who are planning to litigate?

A: No. Early Dispute Resolution techniques can be used in a variety of different circumstances, and we are keen to make sure staff have access to these skills to help resolve all types of complaints.


Q: Has the CSF identified what training staff should have? And can the training be accredited to give staff more authority?

A: Some recommendations can already be found in our Making Complaints Count report on the state of complaint handling, but further development will be needed as the Framework is implemented.


Q: Some Trusts state that, if dealing with a complaint may prejudice the potential defence of a claim, resolution of the complaint will be deferred until legal action is concluded. How does that fit with the Framework?

A: The Framework provides clarity on issues like this. It equips staff to be more confident in identifying the best routes to get the right outcome to a complaint, and will place emphasis on resolving concerns quickly and effectively.


Q: Are there to be any timeframes within which responses must be provided to complainants? How do you ensure complainant satisfaction otherwise?

A: We will look at the issue of timeframes carefully in our guidance. We know this will need careful consideration as one size does not fit all. The Framework already places emphasis on staff understanding what needs to be addressed and how that can be done in the most effective way. This will determine how long things should take and will inform future discussions on timeframes.


Q: Will the Complaint Standards Framework be piloted before being implemented across all organisations?

A: Yes - we plan to pilot the framework (including design and delivery of training) in 2021 once the final version is published.


Q: How will pilot bodies be identified?

A: We want to work with a full range of areas across the NHS so we can observe how the Framework can meet their individual demands.


Q: Have any Trusts already been selected/volunteered for the pilot? If not, how can Trusts get involved in the pilot?

A: Yes - we have had a number of Trusts say they would like to join the pilot. If your organisation would like to be considered for the pilots, please email us at


Q: Will positive feedback be encouraged to follow the same framework, or is this framework exclusively for complaints and concerns?

A: Positive feedback is powerful insight, as it shows what works. We will encourage organisations to continuously share all learning with others to help promote best practice.


Q: Can the Framework be put on contracts by CCGs?

A: This would be a question for NHS England and Improvement to consider.


Q: When does the consultation close?

A: The consultation ends at 5pm on 18 September 2020. You can give us your feedback via our website


Q: Where will the recorded version be advertised?

A: A recording of the webinar is now available on our website