Phase Structure and Resistance to Progressivity in Complaints Calls to the NHS

Bethan Benwell, Catrin Rhys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


This paper examines how callers to an NHS complaints helpline get to “tell their story.” As project-based institutional calls, the closure of a complaints call is observably organized around “mutually ratified project completion.” Our analysis reveals the practices that callers deploy to resist call handlers' (CH) progress through the institutional phase structure of the call, thus also resisting ratification of their project as complete. We show how these practices are varyingly oriented to (re-)telling elements of the complaint or pursuing legitimation of their complaint and/or identity as “reasonable.” Callers’ resistance to institutional progressivity is oriented to misalignment in the prior uptake of their complaint narrative, revealing the relationship between projects and “identities” in the context of helpline interactions and the tension between the separate projects of caller and CH.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-543
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Language and Social Psychology
Issue number5-6
Early online date1 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished online - 1 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Health Services Research Programme, (grant number 127367).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Anthropology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Social Psychology
  • conversation analysis
  • complaints
  • progressivity
  • project-based calls
  • phase structure
  • resistance


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