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The NHS in England employs 1.5 million people, so is the country’s biggest employer and one of the largest employers globally (according to NHS Digital 2019 Independent Health Care Provider Workforce Statistics). It is therefore not surprising that a small proportion of people who use the NHS services come away dissatisfied or in some cases worse off from their care and treatment. The NHS complaints procedure is not like a standard organisation with a central complaints department, so we have outlined what their process is and how a medical negligence solicitor can help.

Where to complain to

At first, you should try to speak to someone at the time of the issue, probably your care provider. Some complaints may be misunderstandings and raising it as early as possible gives everyone the opportunity of clarity or the opportunity to rectify it.

If your complaint is about the treatment or care you have received in a hospital, speak to the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) which are available in most hospitals. They can help resolve any issues, particularly any urgent issues.

If you’re still not satisfied and wish to make a formal complaint, these are made directly to the service provider, such as a GP, dentist surgery or hospital, each service will have their own complaints procedure and can often find information about this in waiting rooms, at reception, on the service provider’s website, or by asking a member of staff.

Alternatively, you may prefer to complain to the NHS Commissioner of Services, who pay for the service you receive from the NHS. If you complain to the Commissioner, you will not be able to complain to the service provider as well. How to complain to the Commissioner varies on the type of service you are not happy about

  • For complaints about primary care services such as your GP, dentist, opticians or pharmacy services contact NHS England:
  • For complaints about secondary care services such as hospital care, mental health services, out of hours services and community services such as district nursing, contact your local clinical commissioning group
  • If your complaint is about public health organisations, like those who provide services which prevent disease, promote health and prolong life, contact your local council
  • Finally, if you want to give feedback about the NHS 111 service, you can email contact@nhs.net telling them the location you called from when contacting NHS111.

If your complaint has remained unresolved you are able to complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, but you will need to complain to the service provider directly or the commissioner of services first before taking this step. If you have completed those steps then you’re able to see if they can investigate the service you want to complain about by using their

When to make a claim

You need to make your complaint to the NHS within 12 months of the incident or the matter coming to your attention. This time limit will only be extended as long as it is still possible to investigate your complaint.

If you received substandard care and it led to a poor outcome you might want to make a medical negligence claim against the NHS, you must do this within 3 years of the incident or the matter becoming apparent. You don’t have to make a formal complaint to be able to make a medical negligence claim, but if you do want to we, therefore, recommend you start the complaints process as soon as you have the necessary information to make a fully informed complaint.

What to include in your complaint

It is best to give a complete record of the issues, including any pre-existing conditions and treatment relevant to your complaint to allow the NHS to investigate your complaint. A timeline of your treatment and how your health progressed would be a good way to start, having this will help you plot out where errors might have occurred. This is the type of information we would take as medical negligence solicitors, so it is probably a good idea to get this together as soon after the incident as possible whilst it is still fresh in your mind.

To investigate your complaint, the NHS need the following information:

  • Name and a valid email or home address
  • A phone number
  • The name, location and postal address (if available) of the service you want to complain about
  • A clear description of what happened and your complaint
  • Any relevant correspondence

Help and support in making a complaint

NHS care and treatment can be extremely complex. Understanding all the potential scenarios of the care you were or should have been provided requires expert medical knowledge. At Pryers, we work with trusted medical experts to help us navigate through the care you received to understand if negligence occurred. This means we can help you understand what went wrong with your care and if your outcome would have been different if you hadn’t received substandard care.

If your health has been compromised by medical negligence, we will help you claim the compensation you deserve, you don’t have to make a formal complaint to the NHS to make a medical negligence claim so speak to our team to find out how we can help you.

If you choose not to make a negligence claim, the NHS has some support options available to help you through their complaints process:

  • The independent NHS Complaints Advocacy Service can attend meetings and review any information needed for the complaints process. You can seek advice from an advocate at any point in your complaint. You can find out who your advocacy provider from your local council.
  • Your local Healthwatch will provide information about making a complaint in your area.
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