The Dentist Magazine.

Changes to NHS Scotland complaints handling procedure

Published: 06/04/2017

From April 1, 2017, all NHS patient complaints in Scotland are now managed in accordance with the new NHS Scotland Complaints Handling Procedure. 

The guidance, published by the Scottish Public Service Ombudsman (SPSO), sets out a framework to manage complaints at a local and external level in the dental practice.

This framework aims for an early resolution of straightforward complaints, usually within five working days. If this is not possible, a formal investigation will take place, with the new NHS model extending the investigation time frame from 10 to 20 working days. However, investigations can exceed the 20 day limit if there is a justifiable reason. As with the old procedure, if the complainant remains dissatisfied, they can refer their concerns to the ombudsman for an independent external review.

Angela Harkins, dento-legal adviser at the DDU comments, “It is helpful to now have clear guidance as to the timeframe and expectation of the SPSO in handling NHS complaints in practice. The clarity of having a time scale that is known and works across all public sectors will be useful in setting patient expectations in complaint management. Local resolution will always be in the best interest of both the dentist and patient and hopefully SPSO will encourage patients to give dentists the opportunity to directly respond to any concerns they may wish to raise. 

“At the DDU, we have extensive experience in assisting members with complaints and are happy to help dental professionals familiarise themselves with the new procedures. We can help draft a response to a complaint to try and optimise the chance a dental professional may have to resolve concerns at a local level and avoid the complainant taking matters further.”

For more information on the new guidance please visit:

The NHS Scotland Model Complaints Handling Procedurewww.sehd.scot.nhs.uk/dl/DL(2016)19.pdf

Valuing Complaints – New NHS complaints handling procedure from April 1, 2017 www.valuingcomplaints.org.uk/handling-complaints/complaints-procedures/nhs