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NHS Scotland launches new complaints procedure

Post date: 12/04/2017 | Time to read article: 2 mins

The information within this article was correct at the time of publishing. Last updated 14/11/2018

The new NHS Scotland Complaints Handling Procedure places an emphasis on empowering all staff to resolve issues “on-the-spot” where they can. Primary Care service providers also have to make sure they record all complaints, even those resolved efficiently. Sara Dawson explores all the changes below

Read this article to:

  • Learn about the changes to NHS complaints procedures in Scotland
  • Find out what you need to do to comply with the new procedure
  • See an infographic clearly explaining the new process

A more patient-centred and open approach to NHS complaints handling has been launched in Scotland – it’s being called the Complaints Handling Procedure or CHP.

The new procedure follows recommendations made in the Scottish Health Council’s 2014 report entitled Listening and Learning – How feedback, Comments, Concerns and Complaints Can Improve NHS Services in Scotland.

It has been developed by a number of key national organisations and will complement the new Duty of Candour regulations, which will, when they come into force on 1 April 2018, promote a culture of transparency in NHS Scotland.

The new procedure provides a standard template for NHS Boards and their service providers to use, and brings the NHS in line with other public services in Scotland, aiming to have one procedure that applies to them all.

Following its implementation, compliance with the new procedure will be monitored by the Scottish Government with the support of the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).

‘Public-Facing Document’ has been produced providing information on the new complaints procedure.


All NHS bodies and Primary Care service providers (which includes dentists and their practices) were required to have adopted both the CHP and the ‘Public-Facing Document’ by 1 April 2017.

NHS Boards were required to confirm implementation of the new procedure to the Scottish Government by 7 April 2017.


The new complaints handling procedure is provided as a template for NHS Boards and primary care service providers, including dentists, to adapt and adopt.

Each NHS Body or service provider (including dentists and their practices) should have a Feedback and Complaints Officer who is responsible for handling feedback, comments, concerns and complaints.

Dentists should note that there are sections of the new CHP that do not relate to the services that they provide, and where this is the case, they should amend the procedure appropriately.

What do dentists and dental practices need to do?
  1. Ensure the new procedures are published and accessible at all times.
  2. Independent contractors, including dentists, can adopt the NHS Board procedure or can adapt the procedure for their own practice.
  3. Ensure staff can distinguish between feedback, comments, concerns or complaints and ensure the issues raised are handled through the appropriate procedures.
  4. Record all complaints, including those handled at  an early resolution stage (page 28 of the CHP outlines what needs to be recorded), which must also be reported on a quarterly basis to the Health Board who pass this on for national recording.
  5. Train staff on the new procedures, so they can identify complaints and use a range of appropriate measures to resolve them. Where possible, “on-the-spot” resolution is to be encouraged (and recorded when used). The Scottish Government is developing training materials with NHS Education for Scotland. There is also information on the SPSO’s Valuing Complaints website .
  6. Determine whether a significant event analysis (SEA) is required.
  7. Produce a report and final response to the complainant at the end of each investigation (pages 23 and 24 of the CHP outline what should be included in the report).
  8. Maintain confidentiality throughout the process.

Dentists in Scotland, being primary care contractors, are required to ensure that their practice based complaints procedure and their processes in dealing with complaints comply with these new procedures. Health Boards are required by law to make sure that each of their service providers complies and dentists are advised to engage and co-operate with Health Boards. In reality, apart from the inclusion of the early resolution stage to deal with appropriate complaints quickly, the process for investigating and responding to complaints has not changed significantly.

Click here to view an infographic outlining the key stages of the new NHS Complaints Handling Procedure

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