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Background to NHS complaints handling procedure changes


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 Complaints Standards Authority (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.

New model complaints handling procedure: from April 2017

The NHS model Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP) has been developed through a partnership approach, led by a steering group involving the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (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 twenty 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.

Updated: May 2, 2017