Conflicting Obligations: Role Conflict among Health Care Complaints Managers


  • Clare Xanthos



health care complaints, National Health Service (NHS), NHS complaints, NHS complaints procedure, NHS complaints managers, role conflict


This article draws on selected findings from a study which explored the conflicts and tensions inherent in the role of UK National Health Service (NHS) complaints managers. It is argued that balancing loyalties to the complained about health service organisation against the needs of complainants leads to an inherent contradiction in the role of the complaints manager. This proposition is supported by theoretical literature on complaints handlers, administrators and social actors drawn from three social science disciplines: socio-legal studies, public administration and sociology/social psychology. The study was conducted between 1999 and 2002 in the London/South East region of the UK and uses a qualitative approach. It is based on in-depth telephone interviews recorded with thirty NHS complaints managers. The focus here is on the interviews conducted with twenty-one of these complaints managers (those complaints managers who worked in NHS hospitals as opposed to the primary care sector). Three key areas emerged as the principal findings of the research: 1. The complaints manager's role encompasses inherent contradictions; 2. complaints managers exhibited very different responses/reactions to the inherent contradictions in their role; 3. there were different types of complaints managers. This article focuses on the first finding, that is, the complaints manager's role encompasses inherent contradictions. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs080187


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Author Biography

Clare Xanthos

Dr. Clare XANTHOS is a social policy specialist with particular expertise in the areas of health care and housing. Dr XANTHOS attained her PhD in Social Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2004. Her doctoral research, which was highlighted in "The Times" (20/9/05) was titled "NHS Complaints Managers: A Study of the Conflicts and Tensions in their Role". She also holds a Masters degree in Housing Studies and a Bachelors degree in Social Sciences.




How to Cite

Xanthos, C. (2008). Conflicting Obligations: Role Conflict among Health Care Complaints Managers. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(1).