Making Complaints Count: Supporting complaints handling in the NHS and UK Government Departments

15 July 2020

This report follows an invitation from the House of Commons Select Committee on Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs to explore the state of local complaints handling across the NHS and UK Government departments.

It draws upon significant evidence taken from interviews carried out with a wide range of individuals and organisations who have first-hand experience of how the NHS and UK Government departments approach complaints. It also incorporates a review of a wide range of other research reports and over 300 of our own investigation reports documenting complainant experience.

The report highlights three areas that need to change:

  • There is no consistent way in which staff are expected to handle and resolve complaints.
  • Staff do not get consistent access to training to support them in their complex role - complaint handling should be recognised as a professional skill.
  • Public bodies too often see complaints negatively, not as a learning opportunity that can be used to improve their service.


Download Making Complaints Count: Supporting complaints handling in the NHS and UK Government Departments [PDF 632KB]

Read the Executive summary.


New NHS Complaint Standards

Our research found that the current complaints system does not meet the needs of the public. To resolve this issue, we worked in partnership to design a set of single Complaint Standards for the NHS.

The new Standards will provide a consistent approach and support to frontline staff, and help senior leaders to promote a positive culture that welcomes and learns from complaints. They apply to NHS organisations in England and independent healthcare providers who deliver NHS-funded care.

We have now published the Complaint Standards, alongside a model complaint handling procedure and guidance that will set out how organisations providing NHS services should approach complaint handling.

We’re currently testing the Complaint Standards with pilot organisations before introducing them across the NHS in 2022. We’re also working with Government departments and other public organisations to develop a set of Complaint Standards for Government complaint handling.

Find out more about the NHS Complaint Standards.