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47. (1) The contractor shall establish and operate a complaints procedure to deal with any complaints in relation to any matter reasonably connected with the provision of services under the agreement which shall comply—
(a)subject to sub-paragraph (b), with the requirements of paragraphs 48 to 50 and 52; or
(b)in the case where the contractor is a Primary Care Trust, with any directions made under section 17 of the Act.
(2) The contractor shall take reasonable steps to ensure that patients are aware of—
(a)the complaints procedure;
(b)the role of the Relevant Body and other bodies in relation to complaints about services under the agreement; and
(c)their right to assistance with any complaint from independent advocacy services provided under section 19A of the Act(1) (independent advocacy services).
(3) The contractor shall take reasonable steps to ensure that the complaints procedure is accessible to all patients.
48. A complaint may be made by or, with his consent, on behalf of a patient or former patient, who is receiving or has received services under the agreement, or—
(a)where the patient is a child, by—
(ii)a person duly authorised by a local authority to whose care the child has been committed under the provisions of the Children Act 1989(2); or
(iii)a person duly authorised by a voluntary organisation by which the child is being accommodated under the provisions of that Act; or
(b)where the patient is incapable of making a complaint, by a relative or other adult person who has an interest in his welfare.
(2) Where a patient has died, a complaint may be made by a relative or other adult person who had an interest in his welfare or, where the patient falls within paragraph 48(a)(ii) or (iii) by the authority or a voluntary organisation.
49. (1) Subject to sub-paragraph (2), the period for making a complaint is—
(a)six months beginning with the date on which the matter which is the subject of the complaint occurred; or
(b)six months beginning with the date on which the matter which is the subject of the complaint comes to the complainant’s notice provided that the complaint is made no later than 12 months after the date on which the matter which is the subject of the complaint occurred.
(2) Where a complaint is not made during the period specified in sub-paragraph (1), it shall be referred to the person nominated under paragraph 50(2)(a) and if he is of the opinion that—
(a)having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it would have been unreasonable for the complainant to make the complaint within that period; and
(b)notwithstanding the time that has elapsed since the date on which the matter which is the subject matter of the complaint occurred, it is still possible to investigate the complaint properly,
the complaint shall be treated as if it had been received during the period specified in sub-paragraph (1).
50. (1) A complaints procedure shall also comply with the requirements set out in sub-paragraphs (2) to (6).
(2) The contractor must nominate—
(a)a person (who need not be connected with the contractor and who, in the case of an individual, may be specified by his job title) to be responsible for the operation of the complaints procedure and the investigation of complaints; and
(b)an individual who is a party to the agreement or other senior person associated with the contractor, to be responsible for the effective management of the complaints procedure and for ensuring that action is taken in the light of the outcome of any investigation.
(3) All complaints must be—
(a)either made or recorded in writing;
(b)acknowledged in writing within the period of three working days beginning with the day on which the complaint was made or, where that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable; and
(4) Within the period of ten working days beginning with the day on which the complaint was received by the person specified under sub-paragraph (2)(a) or, where that is not possible, as soon as reasonably practicable, the complainant must be given a written summary of the investigation and its conclusions.
(5) Where the investigation of the complaint requires consideration of the patient’s dental records, the person specified in sub-paragraph (2)(a) must inform the patient or person acting on his behalf if the investigation will involve disclosure of information contained in those records to a person other than the contractor or an employee of the contractor.
(6) The contractor must keep a record of all complaints and copies of all correspondence relating to complaints for a period of at least two years from the date on which such complaints were made, but such records shall be kept separate from patients' dental records.
51. (1) The contractor (other than a Primary Care Trust) shall co-operate with—
(a)any investigation of a complaint in relation to any matter reasonably connected with the provision of services under the agreement undertaken by—
(i)the Relevant Body; and
(ii)the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection; and
(b)any investigation of a complaint by an NHS body or local authority which relates to a patient or former patient of the contractor.
(2) In sub-paragraph (1)—
“NHS body” means a Primary Care Trust, an NHS trust, an NHS foundation trust, a Strategic Health Authority, a Local Health Board, a Health Board, a Health and Social Services Board, a Health and Social Services Trust or, a Health Board or Special Health Board constituted under section 2 of the National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978(3);
“local authority” means—
(3) The co-operation required by sub-paragraph (1) includes—
(a)answering questions reasonably put to the contractor by the Relevant Body;
(b)providing any information relating to the complaint reasonably required by the Relevant Body; and
(c)attending any meeting to consider the complaint (if held at a reasonably accessible place and at a reasonable hour, and due notice has been given) if the contractor’s presence at the meeting is reasonably required by the Relevant Body.
52. The contractor (other than a Primary Care Trust) shall inform the Relevant Body, at such intervals as the Relevant Body requires, of the number of complaints it has received under the procedure established in accordance with this Part.
Section 19A was inserted by the Health and Social Care Act 2001 (c. 15), section 12.
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