NHS Complaint Standards: Summary of expectations

Being thorough and fair 

An effective complaints system makes sure staff take a thorough, proportionate and balanced look into the issues raised by a complaint. It gives people a fair and open answer to their questions based on the facts, and takes full accountability for mistakes identified.

  • Organisations make sure staff are properly trained and have the appropriate level of experience and authority to look into complaints thoroughly.
  • Organisations make sure all staff who look at complaints have the appropriate resources, support and protected time to do so in order to meet these expectations consistently.
  • All staff who handle complaints do so fairly. Where possible, organisations make sure they assign complaints to staff who have had no prior involvement or who have no actual or perceived conflict of interest. Where this is not possible, staff take clear steps to demonstrate how they have looked at the issues fairly.
  • Organisations publish a local complaints procedure that meets the Complaint Standards and all relevant complaint handling Regulations. Each procedure clearly sets out how staff will handle complaints and which quality standards and behaviours they are expected to follow when doing so.
  • Staff actively listen and demonstrate a clear understanding of what the key issues are for the individual, and what outcomes they seek.
  • Staff make sure everyone involved in a complaint (including staff) knows how they will look into the issues. This includes what information complaints staff will need, who they will speak to, who will be responsible for providing the final response and how they will communicate their findings.
  • Staff will agree timescales with everyone involved and will agree how people will be kept informed and involved. Staff provide regular updates throughout.
  • At all times, staff have the freedom to look for ways they can resolve complaints at the earliest opportunity.
  • Staff make sure everyone involved in a complaint has the opportunity to give their views and respond to emerging information. Staff act openly and transparently and with empathy when discussing this information, making sure they take everyone’s comments into account.
  • In complaints that involve multiple organisations, local complaints procedures identify and set out the roles and responsibilities of a ‘lead organisation’ and the other organisations involved to deliver a co-ordinated investigation and a comprehensive response.