New NHS Complaints Procedures for Dental Practices

07 March 2017

Following on from the introduction of the Patient Rights Act (Scotland) 2011, changes are being introduced to procedures dealing with NHS complaints in Scotland, which will affect all  practices providing NHS dental care.

  • The changes will take effect from 1st April 2017 and practices must have updated procedures in place by then
  • It will align dentistry with complaints procedures in all public sectors in Scotland
  • All NHS dental contractors in general dental practice will need new documentation, including a complaints procedure based on the Scottish government template

The Scottish government template has both guidance and procedures for practices to use in handling complaints and for patients as guidance on how their complaints will be handled within the practice.

This is a template for use by all of the public sector in Scotland, including dentists, to ensure a consistent approach to complaints handling.

There are two basic stages in the new complaints procedure – Early Resolution and Investigation.


EARLY RESOLUTION:  This first stage is aimed at dealing with minor issues. Most of these issues should be simple concerns that can be easily resolved, perhaps with a prompt apology or remedial action that can be taken to resolve the concern within five working days.

INVESTIGATION:  This second stage may arise if the complainant is not happy with the outcome of stage one or where the matter is less straightforward or requires more investigation. A definitive response has to be provided within 20 working days unless there is a good reason for this.

If the 2 stage process, above, does not resolve the complaint, the next stage would be to refer it to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO).


The NHS model Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP)  has been developed by a steering group involving the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), NHS Boards, NHS Education for Scotland, NHS National Services Scotland and other stakeholder groups.

The Scottish Government’s letter regarding changes to the procedure in dealing with NHS complaints in Scotland can be found here:-

An NHS model Complaints Handling Procedure (CHP) guidance document on can be downloaded here:-

NHS_ Model_Complaints_Handling_Procedure – 3_ October_2016

A simpler Public-Facing Guide, which we would recommend as a ‘quick reference guide’ for general dental practices to use and adapt as a practice complaints policy can be found here:-

NHS_Scotland_Public-Facing_Complaints_Handling_Procedure – 3_Oct_2016-1