Human Tissue Authority

The regulator for human tissue and organs

Policy for handling complaints about maladministration and inappropriate conduct

Issued 19 February 2015

Resolving complaints can improve the Human Tissue Authority’s (HTA’s) services and support the HTA’s reputation.  In considering complaints the HTA applies the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s (the Ombudsman) Principles of Good Administration, which are: 

  • getting it right;
  • being customer focused;
  • being open and accountable;
  • acting fairly and proportionately;
  • putting things right; and
  • seeking continuous improvement.

Purpose

This is the policy for handling complaints made by individuals or organisations about maladministration and inappropriate conduct by HTA staff or Members.

What does this complaint policy cover?

Complaints against the HTA rather than any other organisation, about the way it has exercised, or failed to exercise, its functions or provided a service.

This policy covers complaints about:

  • unprofessional behaviour, negligence, failure to carry out statutory functions or provision of an inadequate level of service;
  • inappropriate behaviour or conduct, or incompetence of HTA staff or Members;
  • failure to provide a service;
  • delay that could have been avoided;
  • failing to follow correct or appropriate procedures;
  • not telling a person about any rights of appeal open to them;
  • unfairness, bias or prejudice;
  • giving advice which is misleading or inadequate;
  • refusing to answer reasonable questions;
  • rudeness and not apologising for mistakes; and
  • not putting things right when something has gone wrong.

The complainant must feel they have been disadvantaged or suffered harm because of a fault of the HTA.   

What does this complaint policy not cover?

This policy does not cover complaints about:

  • complaints against organisations within the HTA’s regulatory remit;
  • the HTA’s relationship between or with its employees;
  • contractual or commercial disputes involving the HTA;
  • matters that have become the subject of legal proceedings or are under police investigation;
  • complaints which have been investigated or are under investigation by the Ombudsman;
  • policy and other decisions made by the HTA under its statutory remit - 
    examples include:
    • setting licence fee levels;
    • interpreting the Human Tissue Act;
    • granting or refusing a licence; and
    • approving or refusing to approve the donation of an organ. 
  • third-party allegations (including whistle blowing) against organisations within the HTA’s regulatory remit of non-compliance with the Human Tissue Act 2004 (the Act) or the HTA’s regulatory standards.

Principles applied when handling complaints

The principles the HTA will apply when investigating complaints about maladministration or mismanagement by the HTA or inappropriate conduct include:

  • defining a complaint as any expression of dissatisfaction with administration or service;
  • publishing clear and transparent instructions to staff for reporting complaints;
  • trying to resolve complaints informally by responding appropriately on initial receipt, including providing an apology where required;
  • where complaints cannot be resolved, referring the complainant to the Complaints Officer who will arrange for an investigation at regular intervals;
  • informing complainants about the progress of the investigation at regular intervals;
  • communicating the outcome of any investigation as quickly as possible both to the complainant and to any individual against whom the complaint was made;
  • handling complaints promptly and efficiently and in confidence;
  • if the complainant takes their complaint to the media, then the HTA reserves the right to respond to any media enquiries;
  • process of investigation is open and transparent and details of the concerns raised will be shared with any individual who is the subject of the allegations wherever possible and appropriate;
  • complaints upheld provide an opportunity for the HTA to learn lessons and improve services;
  • providing every year, statistical and qualitative information to the Authority on the receipt, and outcome of complaints and lessons learned.

Procedure for handling complaints

Who can complain?

Any person or organisation directly affected or concerned by the alleged maladministration or poor service.  A complaint may be made by a third party with the written authorisation of the complainant.  The HTA will not investigate any complainant from an anonymous source.

Form of the complaint

Complaints may initially be made face to face, by letter, email or telephone and recorded on receipt.  If the complaint cannot be resolved informally all complainants will be asked to submit full details of their allegations in writing to the Complaints Officer, so that the HTA can carry out an investigation of what occurred.

Correspondence should be sent by post or email to one of the addresses below:

By post:            Complaints Officer, Human Tissue Authorit, 2nd Floor, 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SZ

By email:  enquiries@hta.gov.uk

Timing

Complaints must be made within six months of the complainant becoming aware of the incident or issue giving rise to the allegation, to allow the HTA to carry out a viable investigation of the facts.  However it is best if the complaint is made as soon as possible after the event.

If an investigation is required, the time taken to respond will vary depending on the urgency and complexity of the complaint.  The HTA will acknowledge receipt of the complaint within three working days and respond to complaints within 20 working days of the written details of the complaint being received. 

If the HTA is unable to respond within this time limit, for example because the allegations require more detailed investigation, the HTA will inform the complainant in writing and explain when it expects to make a decision.

In the event that the complainant is dissatisfied with the HTA’s decision and requests a review, this will be completed within 20 days from the date of this request. 

What outcome can a complainant expect?

If a complaint is upheld, the HTA will:

  • give a written apology by acknowledging the failure, accepting responsibility for it, explaining clearly why the failure happened and expressing regret;
  • where appropriate, take steps to put things right for the complainant and others who may have or would have been affected in a similar way;
  • describe how the complainant can take the complaint forward if they are not satisfied with the HTA’s decision.

If a complaint is not upheld, the HTA will:

  • provide its decision in writing;
  • explain how it came to its decision;
  • describe how the complainant can take the complaint forward if they are not satisfied with the HTA’s decision.

What if the complainant is not satisfied with the HTA’s decision?

If a complainant is not satisfied with the HTA’s decision and has new information to contribute to the investigation, the original investigator will consider the complaint in light of the new information.

If a complainant is not satisfied with the HTA’s decision and does not present any new information, then the complaint will be reviewed to ensure due process was followed and the correct decision reached.  The review will not entail a new investigation. 

If after a review the complainant is still not satisfied with the decision then the complainant will be informed that they have the right to complain to the Ombudsman.

Persistent complainants

The HTA welcomes comments and complaints about its administration and service.  However, the HTA will not tolerate abusive or threatening behaviour or language towards any member of staff.

Following complaint investigation and response, contact will be brought to a close.  No further consideration will be given to the complaint unless new and relevant information is provided.  If a complainant seeks to continue contact beyond this point, this will be limited to relevant explanation of the complaint response and advice about referral to the Ombudsman.

Further engagement by the HTA may inappropriately raise expectations of the likely outcome of continued contact.  This may not be helpful to the complainant, or a reasonable or proportionate use of staff time and contact will be courteously brought to a close as quickly as possible.

In rare circumstances, the HTA may conclude that continued contact with a complainant has become ‘unreasonably persistent’.  The following situations may fall within this definition:

  • any contact that is continued without purpose after a full response has been provided; and it has been made clear that the HTA has nothing further to add to what has been said previously and the complainant has been advised to seek a referral to the Ombudsman;
  • where a complainant’s personal conduct (either in written contacts, telephone conversations or face to face meetings) towards HTA staff becomes abusive or unacceptable in tone or content.

In these circumstances, the decision to deem continued contact as unreasonably persistent will be made by the relevant Director (or where appropriate, the Chief Executive).  Continued contact will be brought to a close by letter explaining the position and advising what action will be taken on receipt of further correspondence or contact from the complainant.  In general, correspondence will be filed without reply.  If there is continued contact by telephone, team members will be authorised to bring conversations to an end by explaining that the case has been closed and, if necessary, by terminating the call.

Monitoring and recording

All complaints will be centrally managed by the Communication and Corporate Support Directorate and complaints resolved informally and formally will be recorded in CRM as cases and complaints log respectively.  This knowledge will be used to ensure that maladministration or inappropriate conduct is not repeated.  It will also be used to improve the HTA’s services. 

Complaints about the HTA will be monitored regularly by the Senior Management Team and a report submitted to the Authority every year.

Review

This policy will be reviewed annually.

Please see appendix 1 for stages for managing complaints.

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