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Coronavirus: Information for complaint handling teams

To help the NHS focus resource on tackling the coronavirus pandemic, we paused our work on existing NHS complaints and acceptance of new health complaints on 26 March 2020. After careful consideration, we decided the time was right for us to restart this work on 1 July 2020. 

The questions and answers below provide further information for complaint handlers.

What do you mean by ‘restarting health casework’?

We are now accepting new NHS complaints and progressing existing ones (both assessments and investigations).

While the majority of PHSO staff are continuing to work from home, our telephone helpline is open as normal and we now have access to our offices. We are also able to receive physical post to our Manchester office.  

Our health casework may take longer than usual as the NHS is still facing increased demand and there may be a higher number of cases to work through. 

This might affect which cases we can progress immediately and which may take more time. Our response times may be slower than usual for people who are using our service. 

We will continue to update the information on this page to keep you informed of potential delays.

Will you extend the timeframes on your requests for case papers/comments on provisional views/other documentation and information?

We are mindful that the NHS is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic and we recognise that many of its resources are also stretched. As we resume our casework, we will continue to take this into account and take a flexible approach where we can on a case-by-case basis. 

If you have difficulties responding to our requests for information, please discuss this with your PHSO caseworker.

Where organisations have clear reasons for needing a delay or an extension to a deadline we have been agreeing this and will continue to do so.

We have completed the local complaints process and are issuing a final decision. Should I still refer the complainant to PHSO?

Yes. From 1 July 2020, please use the following paragraph:

‘If you’re not happy with our final response to your complaint and would like to take the matter further, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman makes final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS, government departments and some other public organisations. The service is free for everyone. To take a complaint to the Ombudsman, go to www.ombudsman.org.uk/making-complaint or call 0345 015 4033. It is important that you make the complaint as soon as you receive our final response as there are time limits for the Ombudsman to look into complaints’. 

Will the Ombudsman take into account delays caused by the pandemic when interacting with organisations?

We will ensure that we take into consideration the impact of the pandemic on all decisions you have had to make during this difficult time. Please discuss this with your PHSO caseworker, so they are fully aware of your particular circumstances. 

How will this affect your consideration of the 12-month time limit for bringing complaints to the Ombudsman? 

Our 12 month time limit will continue to apply, however we will take into account delays caused by the pandemic. 

If a health complaint went out of time between 26 March and 30 June 2020 when we were not accepting new health complaints, we will give the complainant until 1 September 2020 to bring their complaint to us. 

Will you be treating complaints that relate to coronavirus differently?

We are continuing to monitor the situation carefully, including the types of complaints we may see in future as a result of the pandemic. While we don’t yet know how many complaints will be brought to us about issues related to the coronavirus, we might receive a significant number. We are considering how we would respond to this.

Stay updated

Please continue to check our website or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn for further updates.

Read our latest update for more information about the impact coronavirus is having on our service.