UK Central Government Complaint Standards

Giving fair and accountable responses

An effective complaint handling system enables colleagues to give a fair and balanced account of what happened and what conclusions they have reached. Organisations openly identify instances where things have gone wrong, or where services have had an unfair impact, and take responsibility for these. They make sure colleagues can offer a range of ways to put things right for the service user. Colleagues also look at what action will be taken to learn from the experience to continuously improve services and help support colleagues.

  • Colleagues give a clear, balanced account of what happened, based on established facts. Each account compares what happened with what should have happened. It gives clear references to any relevant legislation, standards, policies or guidance, based on objective criteria.
  • In more complex cases, colleagues make sure they share their initial views on a complaint with key parties involved and give them the opportunity to respond. Colleagues make sure they take any comments into account in their final response to the complaint.
  • Organisations make sure colleagues are supported and encouraged to be open and honest when things have gone wrong or where improvements can be made. Colleagues recognise the need to be accountable for their actions, and to identify what learning can be taken from a complaint and how this will be acted on to improve services and support colleagues.
  • Wherever possible, colleagues explain why things went wrong and identify suitable ways to put things right for people. Colleagues make sure the apologies and explanations they give are meaningful and sincere, and openly reflect the impact on the individual or individuals concerned.
  • Organisations empower colleagues to identify suitable and appropriate ways to put things right for service users who raise a complaint. Organisations provide guidance and resources to make sure any proposed action to put things right is consistent.
  • Organisations make sure service users are kept involved and updated on how they are taking forward all learning or improvements relevant to their complaint.
  • Colleagues make sure everyone is told about their right to escalate a complaint to the next stage of the procedure if they remain dissatisfied at the end of the organisation’s complaint process. This includes escalating to any independent second tier complaint handler or to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman via their MP.