Regulating healthcare complaints: a literature review

Int J Health Care Qual Assur. 2014;27(6):505-18. doi: 10.1108/IJHCQA-05-2013-0053.


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore approaches to the regulation of healthcare complaints and disciplinary processes.

Design/methodology/approach: A literature review was conducted across Medline, Sociological Abstracts, Web of Science, Google Scholar and the health, law and social sciences collections of Informit, using terms tapping both the complaints process and regulation generally.

Findings: A total of 118 papers dealing with regulation of health complaints or disciplinary proceedings were located. The review reveals a shift away from self-regulation towards greater external oversight, including innovative regulatory approaches including "networked governance and flexible or "responsive" regulation. It reports growing interest in adoption of strategic and responsive approaches to health complaints governance, by rejecting traditional legal forms in favor of more strategic and responsive forms, taking account of the complexity of adverse health events by tailoring responses to individual circumstances of complainants and their local environments.

Originality/value: The challenge of how to collect and harness complaints data to improve the quality of healthcare at a systemic level warrants further research. Scope also exists for researching health complaints commissions and other "meta-regulatory" bodies to explore how to make these processes fairer and better able to meet the complex needs of complainants, health professionals, health services and society.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Health Services Administration / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Professional Misconduct / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Quality of Health Care / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Specialty Boards / legislation & jurisprudence