When it comes to your healthcare, it is important to know that you have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS care, treatment, or service.

NHS Complaints

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) will be your first point of contact. Found in most hospitals, PALS offers a free, confidential, and independent service to help you resolve issues informally. If you’re experiencing a problem with the treatment or care you’re receiving while in the hospital, speaking with a PALS member can be particularly helpful for urgent matters that require immediate action.

Complaints should ideally be made within 12 months of the incident or within 12 months of when you first became aware of it. This period can be extended if you provide valid reasons for the delay and if a fair investigation can still be conducted.

Once your complaint is received, you should receive an acknowledgment within three working days. This will include an offer to discuss how your complaint will be handled. Although there is no set timeframe for resolving complaints due to the varying nature of each case, you should be kept informed of any delays.

After the investigation, you’ll receive a written response. This response should outline the findings, provide any necessary apologies, and detail any actions taken as a result of your complaint. It will also include information about how the complaint was handled and explain your right to escalate the complaint to the relevant ombudsman if you are not satisfied with the outcome.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)

If you have reached the end of the NHS complaints process and are unhappy with the final decision, or if the investigation has taken over six months, you have the right to bring your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

The PHSO is an independent body that investigates complaints about the NHS in England. They can look into issues that haven’t been resolved through the NHS complaints procedure and ensure that your case is handled fairly.

Can litigation and the PHSO investigation run along aside each other?

Litigation and PHSO investigations can run alongside each other, provided they are not investigating the same issues. For instance, the PHSO might investigate how your original complaint was handled while the court addresses whether the treatment provided was negligent.

However, if your primary aim is compensation and the Ombudsman believes that legal action would provide the answers you seek, your case may be turned down. Although, if you are seeking changes in procedure or an apology rather than financial compensation, the PHSO can still investigate even if legal action is being pursued.

What can the Ombudsman do?

If the Ombudsman finds your complaint to be justified, they can seek an apology or other remedies such as changes to prevent future incidents or review of procedures. While the Ombudsman can recommend compensation for distress, inconvenience, and expenses, this is not a replacement for legal action aimed at compensation for clinical negligence. If you are seeking a large amount of compensation, it may be necessary to take legal action.

If you would like further advice from a member of our Medical Negligence Team, please visit https://www.maxwellhodge.co.uk/medical-negligence/ for details how to contact us.