Recommendation 38

CQC access to complaints information

The Care Quality Commission should ensure as a matter of urgency that it has reliable access to all useful complaints information relevant to assessment of compliance with fundamental standards, and should actively seek this information out, probably via its local relationship managers. Any legal or bureaucratic obstacles to this should be removed.

In June 2013, the Care Quality Commission issued  A new start – Consultation on changes to the way CQC regulates, inspects and monitors care.  This made clear that information from individual members of the public who make complaints, raise concerns and provide feedback about the quality and safety of their care would be a vital source of information and that a well-led service or organisation would have a good complaints procedure that drives improvement. On 17 October 2013, it published the responses to the consultation in A new start: Responses to our consultation on changes to the way CQC regulates, inspects and monitors care services, which showed that there is broad agreement with the new approach.

The Care Quality Commission already has a customer service centre which receives comments from the public, and it ensures that these comments are fed into inspections. No legal obstacles to the Care Quality Commission accessing information have been identified. Any bureaucratic obstacles to information sharing are being addressed through the development of information sharing protocols. The Care Quality Commission and the General Medical Council have published an operational protocol which sets out in detail how coordination and information sharing will work between the two regulators. The Care Quality Commission is in agreement with the Nursing and Midwifery Council that they will develop a similar joint working protocol by December 2013. Arrangements are in place for updated information sharing arrangements thereafter with the General Dental Council and the Health and Care Professions Council.

The Care Quality Commission is examining how it needs to develop its systems further to ensure that it can use feedback and complaints from all sources to inform its inspection system, and ensure that people contacting the Care Quality Commission with information are clear what the Care Quality Commission will do with that information, and what action it may take in response. This work will be shaped by findings set out in A review of the NHS hospitals complaints system: putting patients back in the picture, and to ensure that complaints information and feedback from people who use services is embedded consistently and given significant weighting, the Care Quality Commission has committed to develop the way it uses these in its surveillance model by early 2014.


Ahead of any inspection, the Care Quality Commission requests a range of information relating to complaints from providers. This includes numbers of complaints, themes of complaints and the timeliness of resolution of complaints.

The Care Quality Commission will also ask providers to share with us any survey they have carried out of people who have complained to them in the last 12 months.

The new fundamental standards will place a legal requirement on registered providers to provide the Care Quality Commission with information about complaints.