NHS England Complaints Procedure

If you are not happy with the medical treatment that has been provided under the National Health Service you have a right to have your concerns investigated and to be given a full response.

You can ask for the following under the NHS Complaints Procedure: 

  • an explanation for what has happened
  • an apology or other statement of regret 
  • steps to review procedures to avoid such incidents in future

In general the NHS cannot: 

  • Offer financial compensation, although in some circumstances NHS bodies will agree to an ex-gratia payment for relatively small sums. 
  • Address issues of staff discipline, for instance sacking staff or striking off a practitioner. Although disciplinary action may result as a consequence of information obtained through complaints investigations. 

Stage 1: 
Local Resolution

Time limits for making a complaint:
Your complaint should be made no later than 12 months after the event in question, or from the date that you were first made aware of the issues. 

NHS organisations do have discretion to consider complaints outside these time limits. However, it is always best to make your complaint as soon as possible, so that the recollection of all persons involved is fresh. 

Your complaint should be made in writing and addressed to the Chief Executive or, in the case of family health services, the Complaints Manager at the practice concerned.

GP and Dental Practices:
Complaints should first be made directly to the service. However, NHS England commissions most primary care services, therefore you can ask them to look into the matter. They can be contacted by:

  • post: NHS England PO Box 16738 Redditch B97 9PT 
  • email: england.contactus@nhs.net 
  • telephone: 0300 311 22 33

What to include in the complaint:

  • who or what you are complaining about
  • where and when the event(s) happened 
  • what you have done already about the complaint
  • the result you are looking for
  • you have a right to ask for an Independent Clinical Review of the complaint by a Consultant in the relevant field of medicine or surgery, who is independent of the hospital/practice
  • if there has been a Serious Incident investigation, or other internal investigation, you should usually be able to have a copy of this

What happens next? 
The healthcare provider should acknowledge the complaint within 3 working days. They should then: 

  • give you the opportunity to discuss your complaint
  • confirm the way it will be investigated
  • confirm the timescale of the investigation
  • confirm when you will receive the response and conclusion to your complaint

At the end of the investigation, you should receive a formal written response. Sometimes, as part of the investigation, you may be invited to a meeting. 

There is no formal time limit for the NHS to investigate and respond to your complaint. However, the whole process should be discussed and agreed with you, including any extensions, and should really be completed within 6 months. 

What happens if I am not happy with the response to my complaint? 
If you think that the NHS has not answered all of your concerns, then you can ask them to take further steps. This can be by asking for a further investigation or examination of the medical records. You could ask the hospital to consider obtaining an independent report from a medical expert, which can be very helpful in resolving any dispute about the medical issues.

If you are still not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you have the right to request an Independent Review by the Health Service Ombudsman. 

Stage 2:
Independent Review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) 

If you have attempted Local Resolution and are not happy with the result, or the organisation you have complained about has not completed its investigation within a reasonable time, you have the right to ask for an Independent Review of your complaint by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. 

You should make a request for an Independent Review within 12 months of the incident in question occurring, or when you first became aware that something had gone wrong. 

You should write to the Ombudsman providing: 

  • a summary of the events in question
  • the main concerns
  • what action has been taken so far
  • the aspects that you remain unhappy with
  • why you think an Independent Review would be helpful

The Ombudsman does not accept all cases for review. They will let you know within 5 days who is dealing with the matter. Many of the cases being considered by the Ombudsman will be dealt with in a matter of months and around 80% will be dealt within 40 working days. 

If your complaint is found to be justified, the Ombudsman will seek an apology or other remedy for you. This may include calling for changes to prevent such an incident happening again, or reviewing procedures. The Ombudsman can recommend compensation. If the amount of financial compensation sought is very large, or if responsibility for a failing is denied, it may be necessary to take legal action.

You can write to the Ombudsman at:
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Millbank Tower
Millbank London
SW1P 4Q

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