Recommendation 120

Commissioners access to complaints information

Accepted in part
Commissioners should require access to all complaints information as and when complaints are made, and should receive complaints and their outcomes on as near a real-time basis as possible. This means commissioners should be required by NHS Commissioning Board to undertake the support and oversight role of GPs in this area, and be given the resources to do so.

We accept that commissioning bodies play an important role in ensuring that the organisations from which it commissions services are delivering effective and open complaints arrangements, and delivering their statutory responsibilities. Complaints contain valuable information that commissioners should be aware of. However, we consider requiring Trusts to provide all complaints information will place a significant bureaucratic burden on both the service provider and the commissioning body. To be meaningful, commissioners would need to be aware of, and understand each complaint, which would also be an unjustifiable duplication of resources.

The Review of the Handling of Complaints in NHS Hospitals recommends that ‘there should be Board-led scrutiny of complaints. All boards and chief executives should receive monthly reports on complaints and the action taken, including an evaluation of the effectiveness of the action. These reports should be available to the Chief Inspector of Hospitals.’

The Department of Health will ensure that each quarter every hospital publishes information on the complaints it has received. This will include:

  • the number of complaints received, as a percentage of patient interventions in that period
  • the number of complaints the hospital has been informed have subsequently been referred to the Ombudsman, and
  • lessons learned and improvements made as a result of complaints.

The Department of Health will work with NHS England and other key partners to determine the most effective mechanism through which to achieve these outcomes


It is important for organisations to be accountable to the public for the way they handle complaints. The Department of Health, working with the Health and Social Care Information Centre, committed to developing a system that enabled Trusts to publish accurate, detailed quarterly data on the number of complaints received, and to enable comparison across hospitals. The overall aim of the revisions is to provide members of the public and regulatory bodies with frequent, more meaningful data which will identify organisations whose level of complaints, whether high or low, suggests there may be cause for concern. Hospitals will begin revised collections from April 2015, with the first quarterly report envisaged by late summer 2015. It is expected the public can begin to compare Trusts’ complaints data by late Autumn 2015.

The Department of Health is working with NHS England to strengthen the 15/16 NHS Standard contract so it includes the need to prominently display complaints information.

Sir Mike Richard’s thematic complaints report was published in December 2014. It covers acute inspections, primary care, and social care and identifies trends and themes in complaints handling drawn from the inspections done by the Care Quality Commission.