The Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011
The Scottish Government and NHS Scotland are jointly committed to developing a culture of openness and transparency in NHS Scotland that values all forms of feedback, including complaints, and uses it to continuously improve services.
The Patient Rights Act (Scotland) 2011 introduced a right for people to give feedback and comments, and raise concerns and complaints about NHS services. It placed a duty on the NHS to actively encourage, monitor, take action and share learning from the views they receive.
The Scottish Health Council’s ‘Listening and Learning’ report published in April 2014 found that while all Boards could demonstrate clear progress in terms of responding to the requirements of the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011, there were significant learning points for NHS Scotland in terms of welcoming feedback, removing the ‘fear factor’ and demonstrating improvement. The Scottish Government agreed with the report’s recommendation that the CSA should work with NHS Boards to develop a revised NHS model complaints handing procedure and associated information materials for all NHS boards and providers.
The NHS model Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP) has been developed through a partnership approach, led by a steering group involving the SPSO and representatives from across NHS Scotland including territorial boards, the Scottish Health Council, NHS Education for Scotland, NHS National Services Scotland, the National Prisoner Healthcare Network, primary care and the NHS Complaints Personnel Association Scotland (NCPAS). The independent Patient Advice and Support Service (PASS) and Healthcare Improvement Scotland public partners were also actively involved.
The revised procedure is intended to support a more consistently person-centred approach to complaints handling across NHS Scotland, and bring the NHS into line with other public service sectors by introducing a distinct, five working day stage for early, local resolution, ahead of the 20 working day stage for complaint investigations. It reflects the broader ambition for the NHS in Scotland to be an open, learning organisation that listens and acts when unintended harm is caused. The procedure complements the Duty of Candour provisions in the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act, and the development of a national approach to reviewing and learning from adverse events. It is also complemented by the Apologies (Scotland) Act 2016, which is intended to encourage apologies being made, by making it clear that apologising is not the same as admitting liability.
The revised procedure will require amendments to the Regulations and Directions associated with the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act 2011. The Scottish Government has arranged for these amendments to be made ahead of the implementation date for the new procedure of 1 April 2017.
The new NHS Scotland Model Complaints Handling Procedure and public-facing procedure are designed as templates for NHS bodies and primary care service providers to adapt and adopt. There is also an Implementation Guide, which sets out in detail how Boards and their primary care service providers should prepare for implementation.
These documents have been provided by the Scottish Government to provide time for Boards and their service providers to adapt them for use by their own organisations, and to prepare to implement the new procedure from 1 April 2017.
Boards and their service providers should continue to handle complaints in line with the Patient Rights (Complaints Procedure and Consequential Provisions) (Scotland) Regulations 2012 and the Patient Rights (Feedback, Comments, Concerns and Complaints) (Scotland) Directions 2012 until the new procedure is introduced.
Chief Executives must ensure that their organisations and primary care service providers are ready to implement the revised procedure from 1 April 2017. In particular, they are asked to ensure that:
- NHS Boards provide their own organisations’ complaints handling procedure to the Scottish Government by 7 April 2017, in accordance with the implementation guide attached. The Scottish Government will work with the CSA to assess the returns from NHS Boards, and to provide support to those Boards that may require it.
- NHS Boards assure themselves that their primary care service providers are ready to implement the procedure, in accordance with the Implementation Guide.
- Staff are aware of the revised procedure, and in particular of the stronger focus on early resolution, and are empowered to implement it.
- Appropriate reporting and monitoring mechanisms are in place.