A new Complaint Standards Authority: How a single set of standards has improved efficiency in the Scottish public sector

The Scottish Public Service Ombudsman’s Complaints Standards Authority (CSA) has developed a simplified, standardised Model Complaints Handling Procedure (MCHP) for the Scottish public sector.

Almost all Scottish public services have adopted and apply the MCHP. The MCHP includes a shared definition of a complaint and places value on complaints as an opportunity for learning and improvement, requiring organisations to report on and publish complaints information.

The model procedure includes a two-stage process focused on early resolution within five days. If early resolution is not possible, organisations have an investigation stage of 20 working days to provide a response and signpost to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman(SPSO).

The SPSO recently conducted a review of the MCHP, including a survey in which 156 public bodies took part. Results indicated high satisfaction with the MCHP, with 84% of respondents stating that the MCHP’s definition of a complaint is helpful. Emerging findings also indicated that the guidance and tools provided by the SPSO were useful.

However, the survey also indicated areas for improvement and in December 2019 the SPSO revised the MCHP to offer greater clarity around areas like complaints via social media and the time limit for making a complaint. It changed the model to place greater emphasis on the importance of contacting the complainant at the outset of an investigation, and on encouraging organisations to consider opportunities for resolution throughout the two-stage process.

Accompanying guidance will outline the requirements for each sector to record and report on complaints and demonstrate a positive learning culture.

At our Annual Open Meeting in 2019, the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, Rosemary Agnew, reflected on the achievements of the CSA in achieving consistency and transparency for complainants. She also acknowledged that there was still progress to make and improvements to achieve, noting that:

'It’s about trying to achieve consistency, not just of service, but also helping people understand what right they have to a response within in the timescales’.

New NHS Complaint Standards 

We've been working in partnership to design a set of Complaint Standards for NHS staff. The Standards will provide a consistent approach to support frontline staff and help senior leaders to promote a positive culture that embraces learning from complaints.

 Find out more about the NHS Complaint Standards.


More good practice in complaint handling:

This case summary is also featured in the Making Complaints Count: Supporting complaints handling in the NHS report