How To Make A Complaint To the NHS
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A Guide to the NHS Complaints Procedure
There were over 225,000 complaints made to the NHS between 2021 and 2022. Clinical treatment accounted for 25% of these complaints and patient care made up a further 12%. It should be noted that whilst these complaints were made, just over 50% of them were upheld with the remainder being dismissed. The NHS takes complaints seriously and investigates them to deliver better outcomes for patients.
You can access the NHS complaints data report to find out more facts and figures on NHS complaints in the period from 2021-2022.
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The NHS and medical negligence
Clinical negligence claims are at an all time high, with over 12,500 new claims from 2020 to 2021. Whilst the NHS delivers outstanding care the vast majority of the time, these figures show that there are incidences where this care falls below the accepted standard.
The NHS and the UK Government are working towards reducing these figures and improving patients outcomes across all NHS Trusts in the UK. This is why the NHS has a dedicated complaints procedure in place, to help patients get answers to their questions without the need for a medical negligence claim.
How to complain to the NHS
You can make a complaint to the NHS for any issues relating to your care. This includes primary care services like GPs and dentists or for treatment received in hospital.
In the first instance, it may be worth speaking directly to the healthcare provider. Many organisations will ask for feedback following your treatment so that they can use this to improve. However, if you do not feel your complaint has been handled correctly, or would rather have help making a complaint then you can use the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
PALS NHS Complaints
PALS is a free and confidential service available in most hospitals. You can speak to a PALS member who will act as a mediator to solve the problem with the hospital or the staff member without the need for an official complaint. This can be a better resolution for all involved. You can also use the PALS service for anything urgent or time sensitive, for example, whilst you are still under the care of the hospital and are not happy with your treatment plan.
The Patient Advice and Liaison Service is independently run and so has no obligation to the NHS. It is an informal way of making an initial complaint that could solve the issue quickly without the need to escalate it. In some cases however, you may require a more formal approach.
Where to make your NHS complaint
If you want to make an official complaint then you will need to find the individual information regarding the complaints procedure for the provider you wish to complain about. This information can usually be found in the reception area, in waiting rooms, by asking a member of staff or on the provider’s website.
You will need to direct the complaint to the relevant department. If you are complaining about multiple factions of the NHS, such as the ambulance and the surgical team then you would only need to make one complaint. The department you send the complaint to must contact the other involved party and work between themselves to resolve your complaint.
If for any reason you do not want to contact the provider directly, for example, they are still your GP or your treatment is ongoing then you can contact NHS England to make your complaint.
You can make your complaint verbally, in writing or by email. If done verbally, a written record will be made and sent to you.
NHS Complaints Timescales
You have 12 months from the date of the incident or the date of your knowledge of the incident to make a complaint. This could be stretched if there is a valid reason for why it has taken longer than 12 months.
Once you have made your complaint, you should receive an acknowledgement within three working days, stating that your complaint will be dealt with.
There is no definite time period that the NHS must fully respond to your complaint in. The amount of time will vary according to the details of your complaint and how long the investigation takes.
The NHS Complaints Ombudsman
If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint or with the complaints procedure, then you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is an independent body designed to help patients resolve complaints fairly and impartially. Their decision is final and you will need to have completed the steps above before they will take on your complaint. You can not go directly to the Ombudsman with your NHS complaint. They can, however, help you if you have yet to receive a response to your complaint and there has been an adequate amount of time passed.
Making an NHS negligence claim
Sometimes making a complaint does not get you the answers or apology you need, or you may not even receive a response at all. If you feel any aspect of your care was sub standard and has had a detrimental effect on your physical and emotional wellbeing then you may be able to make a claim.
Medical negligence lawyers specialise in pursuing claims for clients who have suffered as a result of medical negligence. Even if you have started the complaints process, you can find out if you have grounds for a claim. There is no obligation to go ahead and if you do it will be on a no win no fee basis.
Our specialist NHS negligence solicitors have helped clients all over the UK get the compensation and support they deserve.
Meet our medical negligence team
Director of Medical Negligence
Peter leads the Medical Negligence Serious Injury department, which now boasts some of our most knowledgeable, dedicated and hardworking team members.
Peter is dedicated to supporting victims of catastrophic medical negligence injuries and endeavours to provide a clear and coherent approach to claims. He recognises the effects serious injuries can have and therefore ensures his customers’ need for support is met. Peter also has a vast amount of experience working with customers who have been injured abroad and is able to act under international law to provide the best outcomes.
Partner, Head of Strategy and Legal Operations
Christian is Head of Medical Negligence at Patient Claim Line and has specialised in clinical negligence claims since qualifying in 1998; having dealt with a wide variety of claims throughout his career. He is also featured in the Legal 500 as a recommended claimant solicitor in the North West.
Christian qualified as a solicitor in 1998, specialising in clinical negligence. From 2010 onward he has had a particular interest in gynaecological and urogynaecological claims, having represented several hundred claimants in the George Rowland Litigation against the Liverpool Women’s and Aintree Hospitals. This investigated the treatment given to women in the Merseyside area over several decades, and in particular focused on the introduction and development of mesh into the UK in both the treatment of stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. The development of this area involved pursuing claims under a unique ADR protocol with the NHS and also looking to develop the current thinking on the valuation of compensation for complex urinary symptoms. He has successfully recovered hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation on behalf of my clients.
Christian was also involved in setting up and chairing a Claimant Support Group for those involved in the Rowland litigation, which provided a discussion forum for the many women who were left isolated and damaged by negligent gynaecological treatment. He now co-ordinates the firm’s mesh claims and has delivered training and commented extensively on the medico-legal implications of urogynaecological / mesh complications. He is a member of APIL, Liverpool Law Society and Legal 500 recommended.
Francesca Paul is an Associate, Senior Solicitor and Team Leader within the Clinical Negligence Department. She is one of the driving Solicitors in the Group Litigation Team dealing with this niche and specialist area of work that Fletchers undertakes.
Francesca previously worked in Nottingham, dealing with Group Action work. She now works at Fletchers, bringing with her those years of experience heading up a team of 10 people. Francesca is involved in the early identification of potential new Group Litigation Work and analyses information from the collective pool of new enquiries into the business, of which there are hundreds per week looking for hot spots or recurrent issues which might suggest a potential pool of Claimants.
One of the highlights for Francesca and her team is that they have successfully recovered over a million pounds in compensation for clients who have received treatment from a single orthopaedic surgeon who was operating in the Colchester area. Her role requires a specific set of skills, patience and a forensic approach to detail whilst being able to see the wider picture.
Francesca has previously acted for a claimant in a case that reached the Supreme Court in the case of NA v Nottinghamshire County Council.
Sion is a team leader and senior solicitor with many years’ experience in dealing with a wide range of medical specialisms and different types of injuries. He is an experienced medical negligence solicitor and manages a team of lawyers within our department.
Sion joined Fletchers in 2018 as a Team Leader in the Medical Negligence Department. Throughout his 24 year legal career, he has specialised in conducting medical negligence claims on behalf of Claimants, previously working for other highly ranked leading firms in the field.
He has undertaken claims covering the full spectrum of medical specialisms, clinical settings, categories of defendant and types of negligent medical care and treatment.
These include high value and complex maximum severity cases, such as those involving limb amputations and permanent neurological injuries.
Sion is experienced at representing bereaved families at inquests and has a particular interest in fatal accident claims.
JI v Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Trust: £1.25m recovered for client left paraplegic after spinal anaesthesia.
RS v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust: £150,000 recovered for client in respect of a failure to recognise complications after a kidney transplant, where her father was the donor.
JN v MA: £100,000 recovered for a client who suffered 2 years persistent pain and disability after knee replacement surgery undertaken as a private patient.
CS v Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust: £400,000 recovered for a child who sustained Erb’s palsy during her delivery.
WO’C (Deceased) v Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; £450,000 recovered for the family of the deceased who died as a result of a delay in diagnosing a brain tumour.
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