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NHS Complaints Procedure

How to Complain

Most medical care and treatment goes well, but things occasionally go wrong and you may want to complain.  So where do you start?  Every NHS Organisation has a complaints procedure.  To find out about it, ask a member of staff, look on the hospital or Trust's website, or contact the Complaints Department for more information.

What Are My Rights?

If you are not happy with the care or treatment you have received or you have been refused treatment for a condition, you have the right to complain, have your complaint investigated, and be given a full and prompt reply. 

The NHS constitution explains your rights when it comes to making a complaint.  You have the right to:

  • Have your complaint dealt with efficiently and properly investigated;
  • Know the outcome of any investigation into your complaint;
  • Take your complaint to the Independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you are not satisfied with the way the NHS has dealt with your complaint;
  • Make a claim for judicial review if you think you have been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body, and;
  • Receive compensation if you have been harmed.

Who Should I Complain To?

You can complain either to the service that you are unhappy with, or you can complain to your local Primary Care Trust (PCT) that commission the service. 

When Should I Complain?

As soon as possible.  Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of the date of the event that you are complaining about, or as soon as the matter first came to your attention. 

The time limit can be extended (as long as it is still possible to investigate the complaint).  An extension might be possible, such as in situations where it would have been difficult for you to complain earlier, for example, when you were grieving or undergoing trauma.

Where Do I Start?

Since April 2009, the NHS has run a simple complaints procedure, which has two stages. 

  1.  Ask your hospital or Trust for a copy of its complaints procedure, which will explain how to proceed.  Your first step will normally be to raise the matter (in writing or by speaking to them) with the Practitioner, e.g. the Nurse or Doctor concerned, or with their organisation, which will have a Complaints Manager.  This is called local resolution, and most cases are resolved at this stage.
  2. If you are still unhappy you can refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who is independent of the NHS and Government.

Who Can Help?

Making a complaint can be daunting but help is available.

Patient Advice and Liaison Service

Officers from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) are available in all hospitals.  They offer confidential advice, support and information and health related matters to patients, their families and their carers.  You can find your local PALS office at the Office Directory at PALS online.

Alternatively if you would like legal advice before pursuing a complaint then call us on 0191 5666500 and ask for a member of the Clinical Negligence Team or complete our short enquiry form.  We can assist you in making your complaint and shall provide this service free of charge.  In certain circumstances, particularly if you are approaching time limits you may wish to consider bringing a legal claim at the same time.