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Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Act 2015

Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Act 2015

2015 CHAPTER 29


1.These Explanatory Notes relate to the Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Act 2015, which received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. They have been prepared by the Department of Health in order to assist the reader in understanding the Act. They do not form part of the Act and have not been endorsed by Parliament.

2.The notes need to be read in conjunction with the Act. They are not, and are not meant to be, a comprehensive description of the Act. So where a section or part of a section does not seem to require any explanation or comment, none is given.


3.The Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Act 2015 seeks to increase the effectiveness of the Commissioner (known as the Health Service Ombudsman), who is the final tier of the NHS complaints system. It does so primarily by requiring the Health Service Ombudsman to take action with a view to concluding investigations of complaints within 12 months, and by requiring her to inform the complainant, in any case where this timescale is not met, of the reason why not.


4.The policy rationale is that the recent inadequate standards of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust demonstrated the need to make it easier for patients to have their complaints resolved.

Territorial Extent and Application

5.The Act extends to England and Wales only. The changes introduced by the Act will, however, apply only to the Health Service Commissioner for England and complaints within her remit.

Commentary on Sections

Section 1: Statements and Reports: investigations not concluded within 12 months

6.The effect of this section is to place a duty on the Health Service Ombudsman, if a complaint has not been resolved within 12 months of receiving the complaint, to send the complainant a statement to explain the reason for the delay. The section also places a duty on the Ombudsman to include in the annual report she lays before Parliament details of how long investigations of NHS complaints have taken to be concluded, how many of those investigations have not been resolved within a 12 month period following receipt of the complaint by the Ombudsman, and the action being taken with a view to concluding all investigations within a 12 month period.


7.Section 2 provides that the provisions of the Act will come into force two months after the date of Royal Assent.

Hansard References

8.The table below contains a list of the Hansard references for the Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill’s passage through Parliament. Copies of the various prints of the Health Service Commissioner for England (Complaint Handling) Bill that were produced during its passage can be found at

StageDateHansard reference
House of Commons
Introduction2 July 2014Vol. 583 Col. 900
Second Reading17 October 2014Vol. 586 Col. 647
Committee15 January 2015Hansard Public Bill Committee
Report and Third Reading27 February 2015Vol. 593 Cols. 584-616
House of Lords
Introduction2 March 2015Vol. 760 Col. 12
Second Reading13 March 2015Vol. 760 Cols. 896-902
Committee19 March 2015Vol. 760 Cols. 1219-1220
Third Reading25 March 2015Vol. 760 Cols. 1425-1426
Royal Assent26 March 2015Lords: Vol. 760 Col. 1590
Commons: Vol. 594 Col. 1682

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Explanatory Notes

Text created by the government department responsible for the subject matter of the Act to explain what the Act sets out to achieve and to make the Act accessible to readers who are not legally qualified. Explanatory Notes were introduced in 1999 and accompany all Public Acts except Appropriation, Consolidated Fund, Finance and Consolidation Acts.


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