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Problems with complaint handling: expectations and outcomes

Jane Cowan (MPS Risk Consulting, Leeds, UK)
Sandy Anthony (MPS Risk Consulting, Leeds, UK)

Clinical Governance: An International Journal

ISSN: 1477-7274

Article publication date: 25 April 2008




The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the current debate about problems with the NHS complaints system.


The paper examines, in light of a recent audit of NHS complaint handling by the Healthcare Commission, the underlying reasons for complaints and for dissatisfaction with the way a complaint is handled. It discusses the implications of various recommendations and research findings for enhancing and improving complaints handling.


More emphasis is needed on the quality of interpersonal interaction with complainants for successful resolution of complaints. Attending to the process alone will not reduce dissatisfaction among complainants.

Practical implications

Learning from complaints to improve services is important to complainants as well as to healthcare providers and communicating this should be an integral part of the process.


The value of the paper is that it re‐emphasises the important role that complaints can play in the continuous improvement of services. It also sheds light on possible reasons for dissatisfaction with the way complaints are handled.



Cowan, J. and Anthony, S. (2008), "Problems with complaint handling: expectations and outcomes", Clinical Governance: An International Journal, Vol. 13 No. 2, pp. 164-168.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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