Outcome of complaints

This research was conducted by Richard Simmons, Carol Brennan, Chris Gill, and Carolyn Hirst. It was funded by the Care Inspectorate, and considered the outcomes of complaints for both complainants and social care providers.

The main focus of this project was the outcome and impact of complaint investigations on individual complainants in care services and on the services complained against. The aim was to ensure that people receive high quality care and to support and encourage the development of better ways of delivering care services.

The core of the research was a set of qualitative interviews with complainants and service providers. These interviews considered the impact of complaint investigations on individual complainants, on the service providers against which complaints were made and on the services about which complaints had been made.

The research identified a number of important considerations for the development of better practice in the response to complaints throughout the care services system. It shows that good communication is key to good outcomes from complaints. Information sharing, sensitivity and engagement are fundamental to making progress in relation to both individual complaints and system-level learning.

The role and potential of the Care Inspectorate in supporting this system and helping to lead developments is significant.


This research also shows that complainants want workable solutions and find the defensive attitudes of some service providers very difficult. Complaining is not a pleasurable activity; it is resource-hungry and stressful. Complaining is considered to be ‘worth it’ predominantly where change is successfully achieved. It is therefore crucial for complaints to be taken in the right spirit, using them as learning opportunities.

The research shows that listening to complainants has a key role to play in both reducing consumer detriment and making service improvements. The Care Inspectorate shows up as having an important role in leveling the playing field.