DOI: 10.1177/0261927x231185751 ISSN: 0261-927X

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

Bethan Benwell, Catrin Rhys
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Anthropology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Social Psychology

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.

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