NHS Complaints Procedure

Other options other than pursuing a medical negligence claim

If a patient or their representative is unhappy with the treatment provided by the NHS (including private health care establishments if the NHS paid for the treatment) it is their right to have any concerns investigated under the NHS Complaints Procedure.

You may decide initially to pursue such complaint. This does not prevent you from bringing a claim for medical negligence. In fact, it is often helpful to any medical negligence claim if you have or are in the process of pursuing a complaint.

You should make any complaint no more than 12 months after the date of the alleged negligent treatment or the date you first became aware of the problem. An extension to this period is a possibility if there is a good reason for any delay.

Possible outcomes from the NHS Complaints Procedure

Possible outcomes include an explanation of what happened, an apology or other statement of regret plus any steps taken to review procedures to avoid such incidents in the future.

An offer of financial compensation is unlikely, although it is within the power of the Ombudsman to make such awards.

If you wish to seek larger sums by way of financial compensation, you are likely to be required to pursue a separate medical negligence claim.

How to make a complaint under the NHS Complaints Procedure

  • The initial complaint, ideally in writing, is to the Chief Executive or Complaints Manager of the treatment provider. This is known as Local Resolution.
  • You should include details of what you are complaining about, where and when the events happened, any actions already taken and the results you want.
  • The healthcare providers must then investigate your complaint. You may receive an invitation to attend a meeting with the treatment provider if there are complex medical issues to consider, but you should also request a final written response.
  • If you are not satisfied with the response you can request further investigations by the healthcare provider, for example an independent medical report.
  • Ultimately, if you are still not happy with the outcome, you may request an independent review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (Telephone 0345 0154033). Similar time limits apply as with Local Resolution but you may request an extension if you have good reason for the delay.
  • You will need to provide a statement to the Ombudsman including a summary of the events, main issues of concern, action taken so far, any aspect that you remain unhappy with and why Local Resolution did not adequately address the issues.
  • The Ombudsman will investigate your complaint and provide a response within a few months; however, some cases may take longer.