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Complaints Standards Authority Update October 2016

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

CSA Update October 2016 (PDF 127KB)

NHS complaints procedure

The Government published the revised procedure, which we developed in conjunction with a wide range of stakeholders, at the start of October. It supports a more consistently person-centred approach to complaints handling across NHS Scotland, and brings 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. Additionally, the new procedure 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 new Duty of Candour provisions and the development of a national approach to reviewing and learning from adverse events. It is also complemented by the Apologies Act 2016, which is intended to encourage apologies being made by making it clear that apologising is not the same as admitting liability.

The Government has advised that all NHS bodies including primary care services must ensure that their organisations are ready to implement the revised procedure from 1 April 2017. We are now working with the Government and NHS Education for Scotland to develop a programme of education and awareness raising to support organisations to implement the new procedure.

Social work complaints

Our working group which includes stakeholders from the Government and professionals from across the sector, including third sector organisations, met for the second time earlier this month to refine the developing draft social work model complaints handling procedure (CHP). This group has played a critical part in drafting and quality checking the CHP,  to ensure that staff can respond appropriately to the wide range of complaints that may come to them. We are working towards publishing the CHP and associated documents in December 2016 to provide organisations with sufficient time to implement the new procedure from 1 April 2017.

How SPSO will handle social work complaints

The current social work complaints process ends at local authority level with a Complaints Review Committee (CRC). People unhappy with a CRC’s outcome can complain to SPSO. Our current role is limited; specifically, it does not allow us to look at the professional judgement relied upon in decisions.  As a result of legislative change, CRCs will cease to exist and people will be able to bring their complaints directly to us after they have completed the new local procedure. We will have new powers that allow us to look at actions taken by social workers and consider the merits of social work decisions in terms of professional judgement.  This aligns with our current role with health complaints, where we can review clinical judgement.

Over the coming months we will be sharing information about the proposed changes as widely as possible. This will include presentations to representatives from social work services across Scotland, as well as updates through regular news bulletins.  Our first bulletin is available on our website.

Complaints handling networks

Local government

The next meeting of the local government complaints handlers network is on 3 November. The Improvement Service is currently in the process of analysing councils’ annual complaints performance reports for the year 2015-16 with a view to completing a sector report. They will update their findings in respect of the sector’s performance at the meeting and will identify further opportunities to benchmark for improvement.  The network will also be updated on the work to develop the new social work complaints procedure. A revised programme of activities will be considered by the network, including ways in which to improve learning from complaints, and the value that can be added by applying SPSO’s Complaints Improvement Framework to identify opportunities for improvement.

Further Education

The next complaints handling advisory group meeting will take place on 30 November at the College Development Network in Stirling. The meeting will look at feedback provided by colleges with a view to establishing if all colleges are using the standardised complaints categories, or whether there is still work to do in this respect.


The housing complaints handlers network met earlier this month in Glasgow. Agenda items included SPSO’s Complaints Improvement Framework, analysis of members’ complaints performance, benchmarking, complaints categories, seeking customer feedback, the Scottish Social Housing Charter and the complaints surgery.

For all previous updates, and for more information about the networks and the CSA, visit our dedicated website or email

SPSO Training

Upcoming course (based in central Edinburgh)

Complaint investigation skills (stage 2 of the model CHP): 1-day open course, Tuesday 29 November.

Save the date! Learning Event on the theme of complaints handling practice and ensuring impactful outcomes: 15 March 2107 in central Edinburgh. Further information and booking forms will be available in November.

These are open to staff from all sectors under the SPSO’s jurisdiction. For further information see the SPSO Training Unit website

For general information, see our flyer: SPSO Training 2016 (PDF, 40KB).

For more information, and to book spaces, please contact

Updated: March 8, 2017