The College of Optometrists

Dealing with complaints

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Key points

  • You should deal with complaints in a sensitive and timely manner.
  • You should not discriminate against a patient who has complained.
  • If you are an NHS contractor, you must have a complaints procedure that you make available to patients. You should extend this to private patients.
  • You should try to resolve complaints in practice.
  • You can use the services of the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS) to help resolve complaints.
  • You have responsibilities to provide information about complaints to outside agencies if requested.

Policy and procedure

If a patient complains about the treatment they have received they have a right for their complaint to be heard and dealt with in a sensitive and timely manner. Doing so can help avoid the complaint escalating unnecessarily.
You should always take children’s and young people’s complaints seriously. You should assist them in their complaint if their rights or interests have been denied or abused, or if they are unhappy with the care they have received or because they have been denied care.
You should not discriminate against a patient who has complained. You should continue to treat them with respect and courtesy.
NHS contractors must have a written complaints procedure that they make available to patients.164 You should extend this procedure to private patients.
You should make sure your complaints procedure:
  1. is clearly displayed to patients
  2. is easy for patients to use and is clearly written in plain English
  3. enables you to deal with complaints quickly
  4. allows you to investigate complaints in a full and fair way
  5. maintains patient confidentiality
  6. gives clear outcomes for the patient, and
  7. contributes information to practice management and improvements.
If a patient makes a complaint you are likely to need to access their record and use identifiable information. You should make patients aware of who will see information about them and your safeguards for minimising risks to confidentiality.
You should keep a written log of complaints to monitor your performance in handling complaints and to identify possible areas for improvement.
You should ensure that other members of the team for whom you are responsible:
  1. are familiar with the complaints procedure
  2. know how to deal with patients’ concerns and complaints, and
  3. know how to apologise and offer practical solutions.


164 LOCSU. Quality in optometry (England) [accessed 31 May 2017]

Resolving complaints

You should seek to resolve complaints within the practice and:
  1. avoid being defensive when dealing with complaints
  2. deal with all the points raised in a complaint
  3. offer an apology, where appropriate. Giving an apology does not mean you are admitting responsibility, it is a way of showing concern and understanding
  4. if the patient’s complaint is justified, offer a fair solution, which may include offering to put things right at your own expense if you have made a mistake
  5. at the end of your investigation, write to the patient explaining:
    • what you have decided, and
    • any practical solutions you are prepared to offer, and
  6. where this is not appropriate, make the patient aware that they can complain to the General Optical Council (GOC) or the Optical Consumer Complaints Service (OCCS).

Providing information about complaints

If other bodies, such as the OCCS, the GOC or local health organisations, are involved in the complaint, you have a responsibility to provide reasonable information in response to a request as promptly as possible. Through your complaints procedure you should make the patient aware of who will see the information about them and the safeguards that are in place to minimise any risks to confidentiality.
If the GOC requests information from you regarding a complaint, you must, subject to any statutory restrictions, give the GOC the information promptly. If you do not provide the information within 14 days, the GOC may seek a court order requiring the information to be produced, unless this is prohibited by any other enactment, for example the Data Protection Act 1998.
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