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Resolving problems and complaints

Everyone has the right to expect good quality service from the NHS and for things to be put right if they go wrong.

The NHS Constitution  sets out your rights when it comes to making a complaint.

Making an informal complaint

Many complaints can be resolved without the need for a formal complaint. Start by trying to raise the problem with the staff concerned or the manager of the team to see if they can help.

If you raise concerns as soon as possible, it’s much more likely that things can be put right quickly and satisfactorily. Taking prompt action can also prevent the problem from getting any worse.

The formal NHS complaints process

If you don’t feel like your issue has been solved by raising it informally or if your complaint is particularly serious you may need to raise a formal complaint with your service provider, such as your GP, dentist, optometrist, pharmacist or hospital.

You may ask someone else to complain on your behalf if you are unable or don’t want to do it.

Who you should complain to

Every NHS organisation has a complaints procedure and staff should be able to signpost you to the person who is responsible for complaint handling.

If you’re worried about complaining directly to the NHS service provider, you may make a complaint to the commissioner of the service instead.

You should contact:

NHS England  if you have a complaint about your:

  • GP or practice staff
  • dentist
  • optometrist
  • pharmacist

Your Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) if you have a complaint about:

  • out of hours services
  • ambulance services
  • NHS hospital services
  • NHS services delivered by private hospital, treatment centres and hospices
  • Community services such as continence services, speech and language therapy, mental health services or wheelchair services.

You can find your CCG by searching on the NHS Choices website .

Make sure you include as much information as possible to allow your claim to be investigated.

When your complaint is acknowledged, you must be offered the opportunity to discuss it and how it might be handled.

At the end of the investigation, you should receive a written response telling you the outcome of your complaint and the reasons for it.

Support to help you make a complaint

If you’re worried about making a complaint, there is support available to help you.

Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

If your concerns are about hospital care, you can contact PALS  who can help resolve issues before they escalate. If they are unable to help, they can explain the complaints procedure and put you in touch with the complaints manager and NHS Complaints Advocacy Service.

NHS Complaints Advocacy

Each local authority must have an independent NHS complaints advocacy service  to support people making a complaint about their NHS care or treatment.

An advocate can listen to your concerns and may be able to help you write letters, clarify any responses you receive and help you prepare for meetings.

Local Healthwatch

Your local authority also funds the local Healthwatch who can provide information, advice and support about local health and social care services.

Details of your local Healthwatch can be found by contacting your local authority or Healthwatch England.

When you should complain

As soon as possible. Complaints should be made within 12 months of the event occurring or within 12 months of you becoming aware of the matter.

If you complain after this time, it is the discretion of the complaints manager to decide whether to investigate your claim.

What to do if you’re still not happy

If you’re not happy with the way your complaint has been dealt with, you can ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman  (PHSO) to look into it. The PHSO is independent of the NHS and the government. Details of how to complain to the PHSO should be in the final written response you received.

The PHSO standard complaints form can be downloaded from their website  and helpline staff can help you complete it. Call 0345 015 4033.

The Ombudsman will investigate your complaint if he thinks there is a case to be answered.

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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