NHSCFA guidance on dealing with persistent and unreasonable complaints

How we may deal with a complaint which becomes excessive.


This guidance covers all contacts, enquiries and complainants. It is intended for use as a last resort and after all reasonable measures have been taken to try and resolve a complaint within the NHSCFA Complaints Policy.

Persistent contact may be as a result of individuals having genuine issues and it is therefore important to ensure that this process is fair and the complainant’s interests have been taken into consideration.

Purpose of the guidance

To help identify where there is unreasonable and/or inappropriate conduct from a complainant and setting out the action to be taken.

Definition of persistent and unreasonable complainant behaviour

Although every instance may be different, examples may include those who:

  • Change the nature of a complaint or unnecessarily/maliciously prolong contact by continually raising further issues in relation to the original complaint. If there are new facts to be addressed these may need to be considered separately.
  • Do not clearly highlight the exact issues they wish to be investigated, despite reasonable efforts by staff to seek clarity.
  • Continue to focus on a ‘trivial’ matter to an extent that it is out of proportion to its significance. It is recognised that defining ‘trivial’ is subjective and careful judgment must be applied and recorded.
  • Harass, threaten, or use verbal (or written) abuse to cause harm or distress to staff.
  • Threaten or use actual physical violence towards staff.
  • Send excessive amounts of correspondence, emails or make excessive telephone calls to staff that are disproportionate to the matter in hand. Discretion must be exercised in deciding how many contacts are required to qualify as excessive, using judgement based on the specific circumstances of each individual case.
  • Persist in pursuing a complaint when the procedures have been fully and properly implemented and the complainant has been informed of this.
  • Repeatedly focus on conspiracy theories and/or will not accept documented evidence as being factual.

Process for managing unreasonable or persistent behaviour

Where there is behaviour as described above in section 3, the following actions can be taken:

  • If the complaints lead believes a complaint is unreasonable or persistent this will be reviewed independently by a manager.
  • The status of the complaint will be checked and the complainant made aware accordingly.
  • Repeated abusive, persistent or unreasonable contact will be terminated with no acknowledgement.
  • Records/evidence of any unreasonable and persistent contact, including any action to be taken will be logged.

The NHSCFA will consider taking further action if appropriate, such as reporting the matter to the police or taking legal action.

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