Patient Information: Making a Complaint
patient information: making a complaint
9. How do I make a complaint (or compliment)?
Making a complaint
In rare circumstances, you may feel that you have not been treated properly by a healthcare professional or by the NHS. It is possible to make a complaint about your medical or personal treatment if you feel you have a valid reason. People make a complaint for many reasons, for example you may feel that:
- you have been discriminated against because of your culture, religion, nationality or skin colour,
- you have not been offered information in a way that you can easily understand,
- you have not been offered the services you are entitled to,
- your diagnosis was incorrect,
- your medical treatment was inappropriate,
- your treatment has had a detrimental effect on your health.
It is not possible to list here all of the reasons why people make a complaint, or to tell you whether your complaint is valid. However, this document will help you to understand how to make a complaint if you need to do so.
If you are not satisfied with the treatment you are receiving from your doctor or any other healthcare professional, talk to the person concerned and tell them why you are dissatisfied. There may be a simple explanation for their behaviour, such as a cultural misunderstanding or a simple mistake, which can be resolved quickly. This is called an informal complaint because the situation is resolved without a formal record of the problem being made.
If your complaint is with your local doctor or a member of the local health team and you do not want to discuss it with them, then all surgeries have a person who acts as a mediator. Talk to the receptionist at your surgery and ask if it is possible to talk to this person. A mediator may be able to sort the problem out immediately, or they may arrange a meeting between you, themselves and the person you are complaining about to discuss a solution to the problem.
If your complaint involves the local hospital – because you were either an outpatient or an inpatient - an organisation is available to help you to resolve the problem. Called the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), there is a branch in every NHS hospital and Trust, where you will be able to contact them.
- You can find out more about PALS and its work here. It offers a completely unbiased and free service to all patients.
The formal complaint process
If your complaint is serious, or has not been resolved by making an informal complaint, there are guidelines on the process of making a formal complaint. Making a formal complaint is not complicated. Someone at PALS will be able to help and support you if you need to make a formal complaint, and they will explain the whole process to you.
The following web pages contain documents explaining the formal complaint procedures in detail:
- This document provides details on how to complain about the NHS treatment you have received. It also contains a small section on how to compliment people for your care.
- This document is currently only available in English.
- This document from the Department of Health also provides details about the complaint procedure. This document is currently available only in English.
- The Patients Association is a consumer group that is working for all patients to improve their experience of the NHS. This excellent booklet fully details the entire complaint process. Available currently in English only.
Paying a compliment
It is also possible to let staff know that they have worked well and that you are satisfied with your treatment. However, no formal process exists for saying 'Thank you' to staff. Here are some suggestions on how to pay healthcare staff a compliment for their work:
- You might like to write a letter of thanks to individual staff or a group of staff, or to the manager of the doctor's surgery, clinic or hospital where you were treated, telling them of your experience. If necessary a translator will be able to help you with this.
- You could visit the clinic or ward where you received treatment and take in a present. Traditionally in the UK, patients visit their doctor or a ward and take in a box of chocolates for everyone there to enjoy. Why not take in some of your traditional sweets or foods to say thank you in your own way?
- Other traditional gifts include flowers, plants and non-religious pictures, taken in person and given to an individual or a group of people.
- Do not take in money or anything expensive. Your gift is a token of your thanks to staff. Expensive gifts may be considered to be bribes or even offensive.
- Some people may not wish to take a gift from a patient, but this is not a sign of disrespect to you. In these cases, you may be able to make a donation to a local charity or the ward or clinic instead.
- Perhaps you could offer to advise staff about how to care for people from your community and so help future patients.