The Department of Health will unveil final plans today for the introduction of a new system for handling complaints about adult social care services in England on 1 April.
Regulations will be laid before parliament today for the new system, which will replace the current “bureaucratic” three-stage social services complaints system in relation to adult services arranged or provided by English councils.
Under current regulations, councils must try to resolve a complaint informally (the local resolution stage); if this cannot be achieved they must carry out a formal investigation (the investigation stage); if this fails to achieve a resolution then the complaint must be referred to an independent review panel.
Three stages scrapped
Under the new system, the three stages will be removed, in order to give councils more flexibility over how they handle complaints and tailor this to individual cases. As now, complainants dissatisfied with the outcome will be able to refer their complaint to the local government ombudsman.
A similar system will apply to the NHS with the health ombudsman handling reviews of complaints that cannot be resolved locally, while councils and NHS bodies will have to set up protocols for handling joint complaints.
In a letter to adult social services directors and NHS chief executives this week, DH officials said the current system was “often inflexible and bureaucratic and more concerned about process rather than outcome for the complainant”.
Formalising good practice
Director-general, social care, local government and care partnerships David Behan and director-general, commissioning and system management Mark Britnell said: “For many organisations, the changes in the regulations will simply formalise the good practice that has been implemented over the past few years. For others, it will require changes to the local complaints system.”
The changes, which have been tested in 94 areas, will not apply to children’s social care services or privately arranged adult care services.