The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman has published a set of quality standards, outlining what the public should expect after lodging a complaint about the NHS.
Available in the form of a service charter, the standards are accompanied by detailed guidance about what happens at each stage of the complaints process.
This explains the different things that are considered when looking to a complaint, how decisions are made and what to expect if a complaint in investigated.
The guidance also outlines reasons why a complaint might not be investigated.
The Ombudsman service makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England, UK government departments and some other UK public organisations.
It investigates around 4,000 investigations a year and around 80 per cent of these are about the NHS in England.
The charter and guidance were drawn up following a public consultation and extensive engagement with past and future complainants, the NHS, other public sector organisations, advocacy groups and staff.
In this consultation, people told the Ombudsman service that they wanted a clear description of what the service does and does not do, explain the complaints process, keep people updated and to be open about their performance against the commitments in the charter.
Julie Mellor, parliamentary and health service ombudsman, said: “We have listened to people and are clear about what they want and expect from us.
“This is reflected in our new Service Charter, which is a set of quality standards which we will report on, and our commitments to people who use our service.
“We recognise it will take time for us to meet these commitments but we will work hard to do so and will be open and transparent about our progress.”
The charter commits the Ombudsman service to clearly explaining any decision made on complaints, and how those decisions were reached, so that people understand the decisions and have confidence in the service.
Changes have already been made to the Ombudsman service to help ensure that the commitments in the Service Charter are met, such as providing more regular updates to people who use the service.
The Ombudsman service will begin publishing information regularly on its website, from the end of 2016, about its performance, in line with the commitments in the service charter as well as report to Parliament about it.
This will include the length of time investigations have taken and customer satisfaction data.