NHS Complaint Standards: Summary of expectations

Promoting a just and learning culture 

An effective complaint handling system promotes a culture that is open and accountable when things do not go as they should. It creates an environment where staff feel supported and empowered to learn when things do not go as expected, rather than feeling blamed.

It uses learning to improve its services and makes sure every member of staff knows their role in promoting a just and learning culture. It puts in place clear ways to demonstrate how the organisation uses learning to improve.

  • Senior staff make sure every member of staff knows how they can create and deliver a just and learning culture in their role. Staff can demonstrate how they meet these objectives through practical examples.
  • Every organisation has appropriate governance structures in place to ensure that senior staff review information arising from complaints regularly, and are held accountable for making sure that the learning is acted on to improve services.
  • Organisations make sure staff are trained to identify complaints in a way that meets the expectations set out in the Complaint Standards.
  • Organisations have clear processes in place to show how they capture learning from complaints, and use it to improve services. In their annual report, organisations provide details of what learning they have identified in complaints and how they have used it to improve their services. This information is easy to compare with that of other organisations.
  • Organisations put measures in place to capture feedback from those who make complaints (as well as the staff involved) on their experience. They use this to demonstrate how the organisation has performed towards meeting the Complaint Standards and what users expect to see, as set out in My Expectations.
  • Staff are trained to identify those complaints where mistakes have been made that may have resulted in significant impact. Staff ensure these mistakes are reviewed through the organisation’s Duty of Candour processes. Organisations routinely share learning from complaints with other organisations (both locally and nationally) to build on insight and best practice.