NHS Complaint Standards: Summary of expectations

Welcoming complaints in a positive way

An effective complaint system goes out of its way to create a positive environment in which complaints are welcomed and resolved at the earliest opportunity. People know how to complain and can do this easily and without fear that it will affect their care.

People have confidence that their complaint will be taken seriously, looked at with empathy and answered as quickly as possible.

  • All staff have the freedom to actively promote how people can make a complaint and use this to identify and resolve issues quickly. Staff receive training in how to do this and make sure people are being listened to and treated with empathy, courtesy and respect.
  • Organisations make sure people know how to access advice and support to make a complaint, including giving details of appropriate independent complaints advocacy and advice providers, any Patient Advice and Liaison service (PALs), and other support networks.
  • Organisations make sure staff who are subject to a complaint are made aware of the issues at the earliest opportunity, and are given details of how to get advice and support throughout the process.
  • Organisations actively reassure people who use their services that their care will not be compromised if they make a complaint.
  • Organisations clearly advertise how people can raise complaints in a way that suits them and meets their specific needs. Organisations offer a range of ways people can complain, including online. It is easy for everybody to understand how the process works, including who can make a complaint and what will happen next.
  • Each stage in the complaints procedure is responsive to the needs of each individual. Every stage meets the needs of minority and vulnerable groups and makes reasonable adjustments where required.
  • Organisations make sure staff are able to identify when issues raised in a complaint are likely to be addressed (or are being addressed) via another route, so a co-ordinated approach can be taken. Other possible routes include inquest processes, a local disciplinary process, legal claims or referrals to regulators. Staff know when and how to seek guidance and support from colleagues and are able to provide people with information on where they can get support.
  • Staff make sure they respond to complaints at the earliest opportunity. Staff consistently meet expected timescales for acknowledging a complaint. They give clear timeframes for how long it will take to look into the issues, taking into account the complexity of the matter.
  • Organisations regularly promote their wish to hear from their users and promote how they use learning from all feedback (including complaints) to improve services.