Advice For NHS Complaints

Advice For NHS Complaints

If you receive treatment from the NHS which you are not happy with, you have the right to bring a formal complaint and have your complaint investigated. A link to the NHS complaints procedure can be found here:


The NHS Constitution provides rights to:


Have your complaint dealt with efficiently and investigated properly;
Know the outcome of any investigation into the complaint;
Take your complaint to the Independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you are not happy with how your complaint is dealt with;
Make a claim for judicial review if you believe you have been directly affected by an act or decision of the NHS; or
Receive compensation if you have suffered an injury caused by negligence.


Before making a complaint, it is important to consider what you want to achieve from the complaint. The complaints procedure can provide an explanation of what has happened, an apology or statement of regret, or a review of procedures to avoid similar incidents from happening in the future. The complaints procedure cannot offer financial compensation (except for very small payments) and cannot address issues of staff discipline.


If you are seeking financial compensation then a more helpful route is to submit a formal letter of complaint to help establish the facts, and instruct a clinical negligence solicitor to pursue a claim for you. A claim for compensation can now be run at the same time as a complaint.


Likewise, if your concern involves issues of staff discipline, you should consider making a complaint to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, or General Medical Council.


If you decide that you wish to pursue a complaint, you should do so as soon as possible after the event in question. There is a 12 month time limit however this can be extended in certain circumstances.


The first stage of a formal complaint is known as Local Resolution. It is always better to put the complaint in writing so that there is a record of it. You should put your complaint in writing to the Chief Executive of the hospital concerned. Your complaint should include details about what you are complaining about, where and when the event in question occurred, what steps have been taken already in relation to the complaint and the result you are seeking.


There are people who can assist with a complaint. Officers from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) are available in every hospital. They can offer free support and advice. The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) also provide a similar service. AvMA (Action against Medical Accidents) can also provide advice for those involved in medical negligence claims. In addition, if you have contacted a solicitor, they will usually be able to provide some advice when it comes to submitting the complaint.


Once the complaint is received, the healthcare provider must acknowledge your letter within three working days of receipt. They should offer you the opportunity to discuss the complaint, advise you how the complaint will be investigated and give an indication of the timescales concerned. Although there is no formal time limit for a response to be provided, if an unreasonable amount of time is taken, you can appeal to the Ombudsman. Once the local investigation is concluded you should receive a formal written response, which should include details of what to do next if you are still unsatisfied. You may also be invited to attend a meeting at the hospital.


If you are still unhappy with the response, you can request an Independent Review by the Health Service Ombudsman. Alternatively, if you decide that you would rather pursue a claim for compensation, you should contact a clinical negligence solicitor.


The Ombudsman will provide an independent review of your complaint. If the complaint is found to be justified, the Ombudsman will seek an apology or other remedy on your behalf. This can include a request for compensation (although if the amount sought is large, or liability is denied by the hospital, you should contact a clinical negligence solicitor), or a review of procedures within the hospital.

This article was written by Sue Jarvis, a clinical negligence solicitor from Blake Lapthorn.

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