You have the right to complain
If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the care that you or a family member have received from an NHS health care provider, you have a right to complain through the NHS Complaints Procedure.
Each NHS organisation has a complaints procedure in place. Information about the procedure can be provided by clinical staff, the hospital’s complaints department or the controlling trust’s website.
Complaints should normally be made as soon as possible and certainly within 12 months of the date of the incident(s) in question. The trust has the discretion to extend the time limit depending on the circumstances of an individual case.
Having established the trust’s complaints procedure, the first step is to bring the nature of the complaint to the attention of the Health Care Provider involved or, alternatively, the trust’s complaint manager.
Contact our expert team today to arrange a free initial consultation at any of our offices, in Newcastle, Cramlington, Ashington and Sunderland, or alternatively at your home, to discuss your particular requirements.
The complaint can be made verbally or in writing. A letter of complaint is preferable as it provides a record of the complaint. It is a good idea to keep a copy of the letter of complaint and all correspondence received in response. The letter should include details of:
- The patient in question.
- What aspect of care is being complained of.
- When and where the events in question occurred.
- What the patient hopes to achieve from the complaints process.
- In the first instance, the complaint will be handled within the Trust, a process called local resolution.
The complaints process, as it currently exists, is not a mechanism for obtaining compensation but it might result in:
- An explanation for what happened
- An apology
- An indication of the steps that will be taken to review/improve performance.
Organisations that can help
If help is required making a complaint then the following organisations can assist:
- The Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS). They have a point of contact within each NHS Trust and they are able to advise the patient on how to make a complaint and reach informal resolution.
- The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS). They can help you make a formal complaint about NHS services by providing free and confidential advice and support.
- Alternatively, Citizens Advice can provide further information on NHS complaints, as can NHS Direct.
Using the NHS complaints procedure does not involve complex legal documentation, does not need lawyers to be involved and does not cost anything in terms of legal fees or expenses.
If you are unhappy with the outcome
If the patient or family are not satisfied with the outcome of the local resolution process, the matter can be referred to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (contact: 0345 0154 033).
The Ombudsman is independent of the NHS and the Government.
Time limits for any subsequent claim for damages
As with all claims for personal injury compensation there are time limits within which a claim must be lodged with the court. For clinical/medical negligence claims, court proceedings must be started within three years from the date of or the date you became aware of any error. It is essential that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.
In the event that court proceedings are not started within three years from the relevant date, the negligent party may be able to escape paying compensation on the basis that your claim is out of time.
Are there any exceptions?
- Yes, if the negligence relates to treatment of a child, or an adult who doesn’t have mental capacity, then the time limits for claiming are different.
- Children: the three-year time limit for claiming compensation doesn’t apply to under 18s. However, it will come into effect after their 18th birthday and then expire when they turn 21.
- Adults without mental capacity. The time limit doesn’t apply to adults without the mental capacity to make their own decisions. This will only apply if and when they regain mental capacity.
- Claims on behalf of the deceased depend very much on their individual circumstances and we would advise you to speak to a solicitor as soon as possible if you believe that their death could have been caused by medical negligence.
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