Complaints Policy

OUTCOME 17, REGULATION 19 (Complaints)

Policy Statement

Accessible Care accepts and actively promotes the rights of service users to make complaints and to register comments and concerns about the services received. It is our intention to make the process of complaining or providing feedback easy to do so. We welcome complaints and view them as opportunities to learn, adapt, improve and provide better services.

This policy is intended to ensure that complaints are dealt with properly and that all complaints or comments by service users and their relatives, carers and advocates are taken seriously.

The policy is not designed to apportion blame, to consider the possibility of negligence or to provide compensation. Employee’s actions, where applicable, will not be considered under this policy, Accessible Care’s Disciplinary Policy will instead be followed.

Accessible Care believes that failure to listen to or acknowledge complaints leads to an aggravation of problems and can increase service user dissatisfaction. The company supports the idea that most complaints if dealt with early, openly and honestly, can be sorted at a local level between the complainant and the organisation.

Aim of the Complaints Procedure

Accessible Care aims to ensure that its complaints procedure is properly and effectively implemented and that service users feel confident that their complaints and worries are listened to and acted upon promptly and fairly.

Specifically, it aims to ensure that:

  • Carers, service users and their representatives are aware of how to complain and that the company provides easy to use opportunities for them to register their complaints.
  • A named person will be responsible for the administration of the procedure.
  • Every written complaint is acknowledged within 5 working days.
  • All complaints are investigated within 21 days of being made.
  • All complaints are responded to in writing within 28 days of being made.
  • Complaints are dealt with promptly, fairly and sensitively, with due regard to the upset and worry that they can cause to both service users and staff.


Each location within the business has a different named individual whose responsibility it is to ensure the complaint procedures is followed through on behalf of the company.

  • Durham – Compliance Manager
  • Newcastle – Scheme Manager
  • Gateshead – Compliance Manager
  • Stockton – Registered Manager
  • Hartlepool Extra Care – Scheme Manager or Registered Manager
  • Hartlepool Outreach – Registered Manager
  • Middlesbrough Extra Care – Scheme Manager

If an individual does not wish to approach their local contact they can contact either Laura Holmes, (Operations Manager-Teesside), Diane Craggs (Registered Manager) or Angela Donohue, (Regional Operations Director).

Complaints Procedure

Verbal complaints

  1. The company accepts that all verbal complaints, no matter how seemingly unimportant, must be taken seriously.
  2. Front-line care staff who receive a verbal complaint are expected to seek to solve the problem immediately.
  3. If they cannot solve the problem immediately, they should refer this to their Coordinator to deal with the problem.
  4. Staff are expected to remain polite, courteous, sympathetic and professional to the complainant. They are taught that there is nothing to be gained by adopting a defensive or aggressive attitude.
  5. At all times in responding to the complaint, staff are encouraged to remain calm and respectful.
  6. Staff should not make excuses or blame other staff.
  7. If the complaint is being made on behalf of the service user by an advocate, it must first be verified that the person has permission to speak for the service user, especially if confidential information is involved. (It is very easy to assume that the advocate has the right or power to act for the service user when they may not). If in doubt it should be assumed that the service user’s explicit permission is needed prior to discussing the complaint with the advocate.
  8. After talking the problem through, the manager or member of staff dealing with the complaint will suggest a course of action to resolve the complaint. If this course of action is acceptable then the member of staff should clarify the agreement with the complainant and agree on a way in which the results of the complaint will be communicated to the complainant (i.e. through another meeting or by letter).
  9. All verbal complainants will be offered an outcome in writing.
  10. If the suggested plan of action is not acceptable to the complainant, then the member of staff or manager will ask the complainant to put their complaint in writing to the Care Services Director. The complainant should be given a copy of the company’s complaints procedure if they do not already have one.
  11. Details of all verbal and written complaints must be recorded in the Service Users journal.

Serious or written complaints

Preliminary steps:

  1. When we receive a written complaint it is passed to the named individual for that geographical area who records it in the Service Users journal and sends an acknowledgement letter within 5 working days to the complainant.
  2. The named individual also includes the organisation’s complaints procedure for the complainant.
  3. If necessary, further details are obtained from the complainant; if the complaint is not made by the service user but on the service user’s behalf, then the consent of the service user, preferably in writing, must be obtained from the complainant.
  4. If applicable, the service user’s Social Worker will be informed of the complaint and kept informed of any development.
  5. If the complaint raises potentially serious matters, advice could be sought from a legal advisor. If legal action is taken at this stage, any investigation by the organisation under the complaints procedure immediately ceases.
  6. If a complaint raises safeguarding concerns then a referral will be made to the appropriate authority.

Investigation of the complaint by the organisation:

  • Immediately on receipt of the complaint, the named individual will start an investigation and within 28 days should be in a position to provide a full explanation to the complainant, either in writing or by arranging a meeting with the individuals concerned.
  • If the issues are too complex to complete the investigation within 28 days, the complainant will be informed of any delays.
  • Where the complaint cannot be resolved between the parties, this will be referred to the relevant Adult and Health Services Complaints Department to investigate further.


  • If a meeting is arranged, the complainant will be advised that they may, if they wish, bring a friend or relative or a representative such as an advocate.
  • At the meeting, a detailed explanation of the results of the investigation will be given and also an apology if it is deemed appropriate (apologising for what has happened need not be an admission of liability).
  • Such a meeting gives the company management the opportunity to show the complainant that the matter has been taken seriously and has been thoroughly investigated.

Follow-up action:

After the meeting, or if the complainant does not want a meeting, a written account of the investigation will be sent to the complainant. This includes details of how to approach the Local Authority, Care Quality Commission or Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman if the complainant is not satisfied with the outcome.

The outcomes of the investigation and the meeting are recorded in the Service user’s journal and any shortcomings in company procedures will be identified and acted upon. The company management formally reviews all complaints each week as part of its quality monitoring and improvement procedures to identify the lessons learned and ensure there are outcomes for all complaints made.

Vexatious Complainers

This company takes seriously any comments or complaints regarding its service. However, there are service users who can be treated as vexatious complainers due to the inability of the company to meet the outcomes of the complaints, which are never resolved. Vexatious complainers need to be dealt with by the arbitration service in order that the time factor required to investigate repeatedly becomes less of a burden on the organisation, its staff and other service users.

Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGO)

Since October 2010 the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman can consider complaints from people who arrange or fund their own adult social care. This is in addition to complaints about care arranged and funded by local authorities, which the LGO has dealt with for more than 35 years.

The LGO’s new role includes those who ‘self-fund’ from their own resources or have a personalised budget. It will ensure that everyone has access to the same independent Ombudsman service regardless of how the care service is funded. In most cases, they will only consider a complaint once the care provider has been given a reasonable opportunity to deal with the situation. It is a free service. Their job is to investigate complaints in a fair and independent way. They do not take sides and they do not champion complaints.

They are independent of politicians, local authorities, government department, advocacy and campaigning groups, the care industry, and the Care Quality Commission. They are not a regulator and do not inspect care providers.

The short film linked below provides an overview of the new adult social care service. It explains their new role and how the service will benefit both service users and care providers. You can also download a free copy of the film and a copy of the manuscript.

They are fully independent of the Care Quality Commission (CQC). They deal with individual injustices that people have suffered and CQC will refer to all such complaints to them. CQC deals with complaints about registered services as a whole and does not consider individual matters. They can share information with CQC but only when they feel it is appropriate. CQC will redirect individual complaints to them, and they will inform CQC about outcomes that point at regulatory failures.

Local Authority funded Service Users.

Any Service User part or wholly funded by their Local Authority can complain directly to the Complaints Manager (Adults) who are employed directly via the local authority.

Relevant Contacts

Complaints Team – Durham and Gateshead

Position: Compliance Manager
Position: Registered Manager

Address: Lumley House, Whitfield Court, St. Johns Road, Meadowfield, Co. Durham, DH7 8XL
Telephone: 01388 768271

Complaints Team – Stockton, Hartlepool and Middlesbrough

Position: Registered Manager

Address: Tec House, Lynne Street, Hartlepool, TS24 7BY

Telephone: 01429 225 700

Complaints Team – Hartlepool (Extra Care Schemes)

Position: Scheme Manager

Address: Laurel Gardens, Marlowe Road, Hartlepool, TS25 4JN

Telephone: 01429 363131

Complaints Team – Newcastle

Position: Scheme Manager

Address: Lawson House, Byker, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE6 2UY

Telephone: 01914 661388

Complaints Team – Middlesbrough (Beechfield Court)

Position: Scheme Manager

Address: Beechfield Court, Beresford Crescent, Middlesbrough, TS3 9JW

Telephone: 01642 433513

Please note: If a service user or their representative require someone to help them when making a complaint, this can be arranged through the Operations Manager or Registered Manager using the contact details below.

If a service user or their representative wishes to make a complaint but do not wish to speak to a complaints officer they can contact the Registered Manager, Operations Manager and Regional Operations Director using the contact details below.

Name: Diane Craggs
Position: Registered Manager (Durham and Gateshead)

Address: Accessible Care, Lumley House, Whitfield Court, St. Johns Road, Meadowfield, Co. Durham, DH7 8XL
Telephone: 01388 768271
Fax: 01388 766164

Name: Laura Holmes
Position: Operations Manager (Teesside)

Address: Tec House, Lynne Street, Hartlepool TS24 7BY
Telephone: 01429 225700

Name: Angela Donohue
Position: Regional Operations Director

Address: Accessible Care, Lumley House, Whitfield Court, St. Johns Road, Meadowfield, Co. Durham, DH7 8XL
Telephone: 01388 768271
Fax: 01388 766164

Local Authority Complaints Teams

County Durham
Complaints (Adult Social Care)
Adult and Health Services, Durham County Council
County Hall, Durham DH1 5UG

Tel: 03000 267979

Stockton on Tees
Complaints (Adult Social Care)
Customer Care
Information Governance, Municipal Buildings, Church Road, Stockton-on-Tees, TS18 1LD

Tel: 01642 527521

Hartlepool Borough Council
Adults and Community Based Services, Hartlepool Borough Council, Civic Centre, Victoria Road, Hartlepool, TS24 8AY

Tel: 01429 284020

Social Care Customer Services

Gateshead Council, Civic Centre, Regent Street, Gateshead, NE8 1HH

Tel: 0191 433 2692

Complaints and Customer Relations Team
Floor 4, Civic Centre, Barras Bridge, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH

Tel: 0191 277 7427 / Out of Hours: 0191 278 8312

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP
Tel. 0345 015 4033

The Local Government Ombudsman
10th Floor, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP
Advice Line Tel: 0300 061 0614

To Raise Concerns Contact:

The Care Quality Commission
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Tel. 03000 616161

They will take details of concerns and respond appropriately and proportionately to the information divulged.

The Regional Operations Director is responsible for organising and coordinating training on the complaints procedure.

All staff receive training in dealing with and responding to verbal and written complaints. The complaints policy and procedures are included in new staff members’ induction training. In order to learn from mistakes, staff group meetings and supervisions are used to discuss formal complaint issues, in order that all staff can share and learn from the experiences.