Press release

Review of NHS complaints system

A review aimed at ensuring that all hospitals listen to and act upon the concerns of patients was launched by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt today.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


A review aimed at ensuring that all hospitals listen to and act upon the concerns of patients was launched by Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt today.

The review of NHS complaints handling was first announced by the Prime Minister in his response to Robert Francis’s report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

It will be led by Ann Clwyd, MP for Cynon Valley, and Professor Tricia Hart, Chief Executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and advisor to Robert Francis during his two inquiries into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust.

Secretary of State for Health Jeremy Hunt said:

Complaints can be the earliest symptom of a problem within an organisation and the NHS should use them to learn from and improve their service.

Ann Clwyd and Tricia Hart have a wealth of experience between them and I look forward to their recommendations about how we can introduce a much more rigorous and effective system for handling complaints across the NHS.

The review will engage with patients, their carers and representatives, staff and managers and other organisations involved in handling patient complaints to hear how Trusts currently act when concerns and issues are raised.

It will also consider:

  • what common standards can be applied to the handling of complaints;

  • how intelligence from concerns and complaints can be used to improve service delivery, and how this information can be made available to service users and commissioners;

  • the role of the Trust Board and senior managers in developing a culture that takes the concerns of individuals seriously and acts on them;

  • the skills and behaviours that staff need, to ensure that the concerns of individuals are at the heart of their work; how complainants might more appropriately be supported during the complaints process through, for example, advice, mediation and advocacy; and

  • the handling of concerns raised by staff, including support for whistleblowers.

  • The review will identify existing best practice for handling complaints, and make recommendations for a set of common standards by which all NHS hospitals will be assessed and held to account.

Ann Clwyd said:

We all hope that when we go into hospital the care we receive will not give us cause to complain. However when something does go wrong, it must be easy for patients and their carers to speak up, without fear. I am determined that the result of this review will be a system that ensures that any complaint or concern that patients or whistleblowers make will be listened to and acted upon.

Professor Tricia Hart said:

As a nurse for over 37 years I was honoured to be asked to jointly lead such a crucial piece of work.

Complaints can and should be an opportunity for NHS organisations to learn from. Moreover, valuing complaints in this way improves organisations’ relationships with their patients and service users.

The Review Team will report to the Secretary of State for Health by the Parliamentary summer recess.

Background Information

The review is expected to make recommendations about:

  • any aspect of the NHS complaints arrangements and other means by which patients make concerns known;

  • the way that organisations receive and act on concerns and complaints;

  • how Boards and managers carry out their functions; and

  • the process by which individual organisations are held to account for the way that they handle concerns and complaints.

Ann Clwyd has been a United Kingdom Member of Parliament since 1984. She was previously a Member of the European Parliament. She is a Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament, and is Chair of the All-Party Group on Human Rights and Chair of All-Party Group on Social Work. She was Special Envoy on Human Rights to Iraq 2003 – 2010.

Ann has much personal and professional experience of the NHS. She was appointed to the Royal Commission on the NHS from 1977-1979, on which she led on patient services as ‘the patient’s friend’. Ann was on the Welsh Hospital Board from 1970-1974. She campaigned for many years for justice for pneumoconiosis sufferers and currently has a bill going through Parliament on the regulation of the cosmetic surgery industry.

A former BBC and Guardian journalist before she became a politician, Ann represents a former mining community in the South Wales Valleys.

Professor Tricia Hart is the Chief Executive of South Tees NHS Foundation Trust. A nurse, midwife and health visitor for over 30 years, Tricia has extensive health service experience as a clinician, manager and leader.

Tricia has been involved in a number of national programmes including work with Dame Fiona Caldecott, Professor Sir Liam Donaldson and has been an advisor to Robert Francis for the last three years.

Anyone wishing to submit evidence to the review is welcome to do so. Evidence relating to complaints handling arrangements can be e-mailed to

or sent by post to:

Review of NHS Complaints Handling

Department of Health

Room 5E43, Quarry House

Quarry Hill



Published 15 March 2013