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Complaints about health services, from hospitals and NHS Trusts to doctors and local clinics.

Complaints about NHS services, private medical care and other health problems

Complaints about health services, from hospitals and NHS Trusts to doctors and local clinics, can be particularly distressing, whether you are seeking help with your own medical problem or acting on behalf of friends or family.

Because of the unique way the NHS is constructed – and considerable variances with the complaints process within individual trusts and services – you can’t use Resolver to make a complaint about most NHS health matters. But we can guide you through the process – and highlight the areas where you might be able to use our website to get a problem sorted.

Private healthcare problems can sometimes be resolved through our website. We cover this at the end of this guide.

Complaints about the National Health Service (NHS), doctors and other NHS services

Complaints about NHS services can include:

  • Hospitals and NHS Trusts
  • General Practitioners (GPs)
  • Outpatient services
  • Community nursing and support
  • Carers and mental health services
  • Ambulance services
  • NHS dentist services
  • Helplines and other support services

 If you need to make a complaint about NHS services, it helps to have someone to talk to before you get started.

 The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) 

 The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is a free service that offers confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. It doesn’t matter if you are the patient, a carer, a friend or a family member. You can speak to PALS about the problem.

 You can find your local PALS contact details.

 

How to get started

If you want to make a complaint, then the best place to start is through this page on the NHS website

If you’ve already spoken to someone from PALS, they can help you begin the process. If you need help making a complaint or need someone to act on your behalf, you can ask someone to speak up for you – an NHS Advocate. Your council has to help you find an advocate if you don’t have friends or family to act for you. You’ll need to speak to your local council, or charity POhWER. All the details can be found here, along with other advocacy groups

Before you make your complaint, it makes sense to take a moment to write down the main things you are unhappy with in simple terms. A timeline of when key events, treatments and contacts with the NHS occurred will help you keep on top of things too. Don’t worry if you can’t remember exact dates. Just note down what you can.

Next steps

Lots of Resolver’s users say that getting started with an NHS complaint is really intimidating, because the process is complicated and / or hard to understand. But don’t give up. It’s actually straightforward if you know what to do.

There are two ways to make an initial complaint – though the NHS usually says you must pick one. This is to avoid duplication so don’t worry about making ‘the wrong’ choice. You can still take it further if you are unhappy. 

You can either complain to: 

  • The provider of the NHS service. This could be the doctor/GP, dentist surgery (NHS dentistry), ambulance service, or hospital.
  • The Commissioner of the services. The Commissioner is the body that pays for the NHS services you use. 

Many NHS complaints involve more than one part of the service – like a complaint involving the ambulance service, A&E and outpatient services. You only need to complain to one provider or commissioner. They will contact the other parts of the NHS to tackle the whole complaint. 

Finally, some services might go to your local clinical commissioning group (CCG). Contact the CCG for complaints about secondary care, such as hospital care, mental health services, NHS helpline 111 and community services like district nursing. Find your local CCG.

Some adult social care services go through your local council. If that’s the case, the council can guide you through the process of making a complaint – and explain how to escalate it. 

When can I make a complaint?

As a general rule, you should make your complaint within 12 months of the incident occurring. However, given the long timescales and complexities with medical care, this may not be possible in many cases. If you’re over the 12 months and have a good reason for the delay, include this with your complaint.

 The complaint can be made by you or by someone you authorise to act on your behalf. This consent usually needs to be given in writing.

 It’s always worthwhile making your complaint in writing where possible. If you need help doing this, then your advocate can help you. Keep all the documents together. We’d recommend photographing them if possible so you’ve got a record of the papers, just in case. If there are lots, ask if you can photocopy the documents before handing over the originals or copies. You should be given copies when making a complaint.

What happens next? 

Your complaint should be acknowledged within three working days which usually includes options and proposals on what might be the best to handle it. Timeframes can vary considerably depending on the complexity of the investigation. But these should be explained to you so you can disagree if you don’t think that’s fair. 

Complaints can be investigated and addressed in writing. Sometimes a meeting might be arranged to discuss the investigation and proposals to resolve the matter. Make sure that you understand what will be going on in these meetings, who will be there and who you can bring to support you so you don’t feel under any pressure. 

Complaints should not take excessive amounts of time, but the people investigating have to write to you to explain what’s taking so long if the investigation goes over six months. 

Once your complaint has been investigated, you'll receive a written response.

This should set out the findings, what resolutions are proposed and the details of what will happen next if you are happy/unhappy with the resolution.

This letter should also explain the details of your right to take your complaint to the relevant Ombudsman Service, depending on what you’re complaining about. This also depends on where you like in England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Complaints about non-NHS medical services

 There are lots of other medical services that Resolver could potentially help you make a complaint about. These include: 

  • Health insurance
  • Private health services
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Dental health
  • Pharmacies
  • Private medical companies / drug companies
  • Medical equipment retailers

 Health insurance 

Resolver can help with most complaints about private medical health insurance, critical illness cover, dental health insurance and over forms of cover for medical services. Search for your insurer or broker here

Dentists

For non-NHS services, you may be able to complain about your dental surgery. As a general rule, larger chains are on our system, though independent dentists may not be. Search for your dentist surgery here

Medical equipment retailers

Many retailers selling medical supplies are on Resolver’s website, if based in the UK. If not, you may be able to request we add them too. Search for your medical retailer here

Helping you with NHS services

You can raise issues with 728 companies in NHS services
Key companies include:


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Working with

With Resolver you can send your case to key ombudsmen and regulators including: