How to go about making any sort of complaint about the standard of your medical treatment.
When your medical treatment goes wrong you have a legal right to complain and that complaint should be dealt with thoroughly. Every National Health Service (NHS) hospital or clinic must have a medical complaints procedure which should be available by asking a member of hospital staff or by looking on the hospital's website. Your rights are explained more fully in the NHS Constitution. The position is generally similar with NHS Foundation Trusts but complaining about private treatment outside the NHS is completely different. We understand your distress when medical treatment goes wrong and recognise that the support you may need initially may be how to start a complaint, rather than how to begin a compensation claim. Whatever the circumstances of your complaint, our dedicated team can advise you as well as putting you in touch with support groups.
Complaining about NHS treatment
You should first contact the hospital's complaints department or visit its website for details of the medical complaints procedure. Since April 2009 the NHS has operated a two-stage complaints process:
Stage 1 - Write or speak to the hospital's complaints department, which should then liaise with the clinicians concerned and respond to your complaint. This is called 'local resolution' and most complaints are answered and resolved at this stage.
Stage 2 - If you are unhappy with the outcome of the local resolution process you can refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (Tel 0345 015 4033) which is independent of both the NHS and the government.
Complaining about private medical treatment
Complaints about private medical treatment are usually made directly to the clinician involved, who will then deal with the matter in line with established in-house complaints procedures. Most private hospitals are members of the Independent Healthcare Forum which requires that you have an acknowledgement within two days of making a complaint and a full written response within 20 working days. Membership of the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) indicates that your private medical provider will abide by a code of conduct for handling patients' complaints – look for the ISCAS logo. If you are still unhappy, you can pursue the matter further through internal appeal and independent external adjudication. If you have had private treatment in an NHS hospital or it was paid for by the NHS, you should discuss your complaint with the complaints department of the NHS organisation that funded your treatment as well as the private medical provider who delivered it.
Getting the timing right
Whether NHS or private, your medical complaint should ideally be made within six months (12 months if your treatment is ongoing) of the delivery of the treatment you consider to be below par or unsatisfactory. That time limit can sometimes be extended if there are considered to be good reasons (you're still grieving or suffering trauma) but otherwise prompt action on your part is required. You should also bear in mind that if you are thinking about bringing legal action against a hospital you will need to do it within three years of the alleged sub-standard treatment (or longer for children). Sometimes there is no time to wait for a complaint to be dealt with and so both avenues – complaint and legal action - may be best pursued together.
Why Choose Shoosmiths Access Legal?
Shoosmiths Access Legal are an independent firm of national solicitors with 10 offices spread throughout the UK, meaning that wherever you are, we're likely to be local to you. You'll find our experienced solicitors to be both approachable and supportive as well as professional and effective.
Our clients are the centre of everything we do, so your needs are our priority. We can arrange meetings at your convenience and preference over the 'phone, at one of our offices or when needed at your home. We will talk and later guide you through the whole process explaining what you can expect to happen, as well as answering any questions you may have.
Funding a case
Do not be concerned about the cost of funding your claim and don't be put off seeking our help. At the beginning, we will advise you free of charge, and without commitment, about all of the options available to you and find a way of helping you that best suits your individual needs.
Our dedicated legal advisors can be contacted via our helpline on 03700 868 686 and can offer initial advice as well as arranging a call or a meeting for you with one of our specialists who deals specifically with cases like yours. Contact us today in the confidence that your case will be dealt with by one of the leading law firms in the UK.