NHS Patient Complaints: How to complain to an NHS healthcare provider if you suffer injury from treatment or care you have received

In this article we explain what the NHS Patient Complaints procedure is; how you can get the details of the specific NHS provider’s complaints procedure; how to complain on behalf of another person; how long you have to make a compliant; how PALS can help resolve your issue with a hospital; where best to get help making an NHS patient complaint; why you should complain before making a claim for compensation for medical injury with access to our specialist solicitor free online help.

What is the NHS Patient Complaints procedure?

The NHS patient complaints procedure is the formal process by which you can complain about the treatment or care you have received from an NHS organisation. This complaint is made to the provider itself.

Each NHS provider is obliged to have its own patient complaints procedure – which can vary from provider to provider.

Be aware – a complaint via the patient complaints procedure will not be ignored. It is very different than making an informal oral complaint to the clinician you are unhappy with – who might not take the complaint seriously.

How can you find the details of the specific NHS patient complaints procedure of the NHS provider you wish to complain to?

You will often find the details of the NHS complaints procedure in the NHS provider’s waiting-room or reception area or on their website.

If you cannot find the complaints procedure – you can ask at reception or ask a member of staff for details of their specific procedure.

Can you make an NHS patient complaint on behalf of another – including a deceased person and a child?

“Yes” – you can also use the NHS patient complaints procedure to complain on behalf of another person for the treatment or care they received from an NHS organisation.

To do this you should include with the complaint a consent form from the patient you are complaining on behalf of.

Be aware – a consent form may not be necessary if the complaint is on behalf of someone who is deceased, someone who lacks capacity or a child who is considered not mature enough to make treatment decisions – known as a non-Gillick competent child.

Generally – children over 16 years can consent to medical treatment, but even children under 16 years can be considered Gillick competent and as such mature enough to consent to treatment. If a child is Gillick competent – you would need a consent form from the child to make a complaint on the child’s behalf.

See our child injury article for a legal definition of what the law considers as a child.

How long do you have to make a complaint to the NHS if you are unhappy with your treatment or care?

You should typically make your NHS patient complaint within 12 months of the event occurrence that you wish to complain of or within 12 months of an issued coming to your attention.

Good news – there is a discretion of the NHS organisation to extend the time period to complain.

The extension will only be granted if you can show a good reason you did not complain earlier.

Watch out – the NHS healthcare provider may still deny you an extension to complain if it is believed a proper investigation is not possible due to the elapse of time.

nhs medical injury complaint discussion
NHS Medical Injury Complaint Discussion

Who are PALS and can they help with NHS hospital treatment issues?

In most NHS hospitals you can speak to PALS – the Patient Advice And Liaison Service.

PALS will help to resolve your issue informally without the need for an actual complaint.

PALS may also give you guidance on how to complain – if the issue cannot be resolved informally.

Watch out – PALS deal with your issue informally and this is different than following the formal NHS patient complaints procedure..

Who can provide help with making an NHS complaint?

There are a number of options for obtaining help with a complaint to NHS which include:

The NHS Complaints Advocacy Service

This NHS Complaints advocacy service is a free service funded by the local authority. The NHS provider that you wish to complain about should be able to provide you with the relevant details.

See the Parliamentary And Health Service Ombudsman description of this free advocacy service.

You might have legal protection cover in many different places, such as on your household contents insurance. In some instances – household contents legal protection could fund an insurance panel solicitor to help you with your complaint and a clinical injury claim.

Medical Negligence Solicitors

Medical negligence solicitors, funded by a no win no fee, tend not to help with your NHS complaint unless the matter has caused very serious injury or death. In addition, it would need to be obvious from the facts present that negligence by the NHS had occurred.

Be aware – Although a medical negligence solicitor may not assist with your NHS patient complaint – a claim for injury as a result of clinical negligence by the NHS could be considered by your solicitor, which can run in parallel with your complaint.

Should you make a complaint via the NHS patient complaints procedure before starting a clinical negligence claim against the NHS?

“Yes” – generally speaking, before commencing a clinical negligence claim you should consider making a formal complaint to the NHS healthcare provider.

But in certain circumstances your medical negligence claim can run in parallel with your complaint.

Remember – going through the NHS patient complaints procedure is important to give the NHS a chance to respond to your issues. You might be satisfied with the response or you may wish to take the matter further.

NHS Patient Complaints Summary

In this article we have set our what the NHS patient complaints procedure is; how it can vary depending on the NHS provider and the importance of following the procedure before deciding whether to make a claim for compensation for injury caused by medical negligence.

How to speak to a solicitor about your medical injury claim – free of charge

We offer a number of specialist solicitor online and telephone free help options – you can call direct to ask a question, ask online, have your claim assessed or arrange a solicitor callback.