Making a complaint about health care

consulting-doctorThere will be times when the health care standards in a clinic, hospital or other organisation will fall short. While this is obviously unacceptable, it is a fact of life that where human beings are in charge, failings do happen from time to time. What matters is what is done about it, and whether or not you can satisfactorily make your concerns felt. Occasionally, a simple ‘word in the ear’ with someone responsible – nurse, administrator, junior or senior doctor could do the trick.

However, if the case is serious you might have to make an official complaint.

Making an Official NHS Complaint

This really depends on whether you are being treated by the NHS or a private clinician; the procedures will inevitably be different.

As far as the NHS is concerned, the first thing you must do, irrespective of whom you are complaining about, is do it sooner rather than later. There may be a time limit. Researching complaints can be a long, arduous and probably thankless task, so any delay can affect the outcome. It can also be costly. If making a complaint against the NHS – member of staff or department or general health care standards – the quickest way is to speak with them directly. This is called Local Resolution. Doing this could solve the problem without going any further.

But if this does not work, the next step is to contact the local Primary Care Trust (PCT), Hospital Trust or other relevant NHS organisation. Each one will have a dedicated complaints department. You might also want to enlist the services of the local patient’s service, which is usually run by volunteers. This could be either PALS or ICAS. The first stands for Patient Advice and Liaison Service; the second is the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service.

If you are going to make an official complaint, it is advisable to write it down. That way, you will have a record of it. Always keep relevant correspondence safe, including telephone calls. If the organisation – NHS or private has a complaints manager, it is his or her duty to record all complaints. That said there should always be someone to take the details of the complaint.


Health Ombudsman Service

If the complaint is not resolved adequately, then the next stage is to contact the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman. This is independent of both the Government and the NHS. As such, it will act impartially on your behalf. If all else fails, then you might have to invest in a specialist lawyer’s services.

Private Health Complaints

If your complaint is against a private organisation – hospital, dentist, insurance company and so on – then you will need to get hold of the person responsible for dealing with these. If the practice or clinic is a member of the Independent Health Care Advisory Service, then they are supposed follow a code of practice. As such, it is probably worthwhile contacting this body initially.

For Dentists, the General Dental Council should be able to help, while complaints about medical insurance should in the first instance, be directed towards the company. As insurance is essentially a financial matter, you also have the option of consulting the Financial Ombudsman Service.