1. All complaints received about DMWS will be dealt with in accordance with this procedure and will be used as an opportunity to improve the service provided by DMWS to patients, their families and to ensure fulfilment of contractual requirements. The procedure reflects the requirements of the NHS Complaints Procedure and DMWS’s approach to managing patient’s complaints and concerns.


  1. A complaint, in the context of this procedure, is an expression of dissatisfaction from a person or organisation external to DMWS (for example, a member of the armed forces/Police/Blue light services undergoing treatment in hospital; a family member; or any individual or organisation in receipt of our services which relates to a specific incident where service from DMWS fell short of the complainant’s expectations). This applies to all aspects of our service and not just those engaged in welfare service delivery. It applies equally to all staff in every location. Any complaint reflects badly on the reputation of DMWS and it is vital that every complaint is dealt with swiftly, openly and honestly to avoid further damage and risk.


  1. DMWS aims to work in accordance with the following guiding principles in relation to complaints:

a. The timely and thorough investigation of and response to a complaint, is accorded highest priority by all concerned. Delay can lead to litigation.

b. There are well-publicised and adequate access mechanisms and communication channels for would-be complainants.

c. Complainants receive an individualised, full and honest response, which provides an account of what happened, why it happened, and, if appropriate, any action(s) taken to avoid recurrence.

d. Any errors or shortcomings are openly acknowledged, and an apology or expression of regret provided. (This will not constitute an admission of liability).

e. Lessons are learned, and action taken to effect changes or improvements in policies, procedure or practice.

f. Staff are treated fairly, are given feedback, and are offered any necessary support and additional training if required.


  1. Complainants may be existing or former patients of DMWS or members of their family, or others who have had access to DMWS services.
  2. Members of the organisations for whom we provide a service, eg Defence Medical Service staff and other military/police/blue light services personnel, NHS Managers or medical staff, may also complain about aspects of the DMWS service. If the person complaining is not a DMWS service user, but is complaining on behalf of a DMWS service user, it is important to check that the service user knows about the complaint. The complainant must be told that, in order not to be in breach of confidentiality, any matters relating to the service users care and treatment can only be answered with the service user’s consent. (This does not mean that the matters raised cannot be investigated, but means that the reply to the complainant may not be in detail).


  1. All complaints will be treated as confidential. Care must be taken at all levels to ensure that any information disclosed about a service user during a complaint investigation is relevant to that investigation and only disclosed to those people who have a legitimate need to know it for the purpose of investigating the complaint. It is good practice to explain to the service user that information from records held by DMWS staff may need to be disclosed in order that their complaint can be investigated.
  2. All correspondence with complainants will be marked “Private and Confidential” or “Personal” and First Class recorded delivery post will be used.


  1. Any member of DMWS staff, who receives an expression of dissatisfaction with any aspect of DMWS service, either verbally or in writing, must notify their Line Manager immediately who will report it to the appropriate Director and the Business Support Team, DMWS so that a timeline of activity can be initiated to monitor the progress of the complaint, in the first instance.
  2. Where a complaint has not been submitted in writing and the complainant wishes further action to be taken, the member of staff receiving the complaint must write down the nature of the complaint and agree the content, particularly the facts, with the complainant, before submitting it for further action. This should be dated and signed by both parties.
  3. The staff member should immediately take action to resolve the complaint if this is possible. The complainant should be given an explanation, informed of any action that has or will be taken and may be given an apology if appropriate. The member of staff may feel that it is not appropriate to give an apology, but may express regret at the complainant’s dissatisfaction with the service. The response given should be noted by the staff member and a written record made in order to accurately record all action taken, noting by whom it is taken and when. This must be sent to the Business Support Team, DMWS as all complaints have to be reported to the appropriate contractor
  4. Where the complainant remains dissatisfied after being given a verbal response, or wishes their complaint to be dealt with by a senior manager, the complaint will be forwarded to the appropriate Director for action and reporting to the Senior Management Team.
  5. Unresolved verbal complaints and all written complaints must be acknowledged to the complainant in writing within five working days. The acknowledgement may include a response to the issue(s) raised where this can be dealt with immediately; where this is not possible, the acknowledgement must indicate that the matters raised are being looked into and the expected timescale within which DMWS will reply. In all instances, the matters raised in complaints must be investigated and a response sent within four weeks.
  6. Each stage of dealing with the complaint must be documented and copies of correspondence kept by the appropriate Director and Business Support Team at DMWS HQ.
  7. If a complainant specifically requests a meeting with staff, this should be arranged whenever possible, subject to available reasonable resources. However, this will be discussed with the relevant members of staff before it is agreed with the complainant. Appropriate staff should attend a pre-meeting to discuss the case. It should be noted that these issues require thorough investigation and preparation before a meeting takes place. However it is vital that all parties are kept informed about progress so if a lengthy investigation is required then regular progress reviews must be sent in writing to the complainant and any members of staff who may be implicated.
  8. Where an investigation needs to be undertaken of matters raised in a complaint that are not immediately resolved, the Senior Management Team (SMT) will decide the most appropriate manager to investigate the complaint, having regard for the person(s) or subject matter. This should include obtaining written statements from any staff involved and written notes of any interviews, which may have been conducted to establish the facts. All investigations must be conducted fairly, without prejudice and confidence must be respected. All information received in support of the investigation of a complaint should be treated confidentially and kept in a secure place when not in use. Upon completing the investigation, the manager will draft a written response, which must be cleared by the appropriate member of the SMT, and include any supporting information, within ten working days.
  9. The purpose of the investigation is to:

a. Establish the facts and confirm the accuracy of the complaint. At every stage of the investigation accurate records must be kept, documentation must be properly signed and dated so that there is a clear audit trail.

b. Determine whether any action needs to be taken to prevent or rectify deficiencies and/or prevent reoccurrence.

c. Formulate a written response to the complainant.

d. Communicate the outcome to appropriate DMWS staff.

  1. Where an investigation cannot be completed within ten working days, the reason(s) must be submitted to the SMT in writing, with an indication of when it is likely to be concluded.
  2. If the investigation and final response cannot be completed and sent to the complainant within four weeks, the complainant will be informed by the Director or Chief Executive in writing of the reason for the delay and be given an estimate of the timing of the final response.
  3. Where a complainant is dissatisfied with a written response to a complaint, a further investigation should be conducted in accordance with this procedure by the SMT. If considered appropriate, an interview should be arranged with the complainant in an attempt to resolve the remaining areas of dissatisfaction.
  4. The SMT will review any complaints received at its regular meetings. The team will provide a summary of all complaints received and action taken in response to them. This summary will be submitted to the Board of Trustees as part of the management review report.


  1. The complaints process will be co-ordinated by the Business Support Team who has management responsibility of the complaints process and any associated documentation. The Business Support Team will be responsible for the monitoring of individual complaints against agreed timescales, and will produce a report of complaints received. The report will include a summarised description of each complaint, the action taken to improve services as a result of the complaint and identify whether and why any delays in response are occurring.
  2. Directors will ensure that lessons from complaints are used as learning opportunities and action is taken to prevent recurrence. Directors will review changes to procedures as part of their management responsibilities to ensure that improvements are being maintained.
  3. The DMWS Annual Report will include information about the number of complaints received and details of any service improvements resulting from complaints


  1. The DMWS welcomes comments and suggestions, whether critical or positive, and these should be forwarded to the Business Support Team for acknowledgement, consideration and appropriate action.


  1. All staff should know how to react and what to do if someone makes a complaint. The DMWS will provide staff training in all aspects of complaints management, in line with this procedure, at their work place induction and as part of a continuing programme.


  1. Information about the right to complain and use of the DMWS complaints procedure will be made available to Service Users and their families.


  1. The Chief Executive has overall responsibility for implementing and monitoring this procedure, which will be reviewed on a regular basis following its implementation and may be changed from time to time.
  2. Any queries or comments about this procedure should be addressed to the Business Support Team, DMWS.