NHS Complaints Advocacy – resolving concerns about medical treatment

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Our National Health Service is rated best in the developed world for safety, affordability and efficiency, according to the US-based Commonwealth Fund.

We're all aware of the extra pressures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years. And COVID hasn’t gone away. The pressure is still on our doctors, nurses, ambulance crews and a whole range of care givers. In the week to 18th March 2022, almost 17,000 new infections have been recorded and around 280 people hospitalised in Norfolk. Regular NHS services have been there throughout, and some have been impacted, notably in terms of waiting list times and deferments.

Even in less crisis-driven times the NHS deals with around 1 million patients every 36 hours, and very occasionally – it’s around one-tenth of one per-cent of all patient cases - something goes wrong and needs resolving.

It’s dealing with those rare instances that helps maintain the high standards of service within the NHS. Most of us don’t like complaining though. We find it difficult, even embarrassing, and are not always sure who we should take our concerns to. Sometimes it just comes down to providing feedback so that services can be improved upon.  But if a complaint is justified there are established procedures available to try to put things right. The NHS endorses and supports this. 

How to make a complaint 

The right way to take forward a complaint or concern about any NHS treatment received from a hospital, ambulance service, mental health service, GP, dentist, pharmacist, receptionist or optician is with the individual or their manager. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, the NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is the next step.    

NHS Complaints Advocacy in Norfolk 

If a patient still doesn’t feel their complaint has been properly addressed, they can turn to the NHS Complaints  Advocacy  Service.  In Norfolk, that service is provided by a partnership of Community Action Norfolk, Age UK Norfolk, Equal Lives, and POhWER. It’s free, confidential, and independent of the NHS.  

Our advocates can help you to take a complaint forward in the right way to the right people. This might include explaining your options and helping you write a letter of complaint, attending a meeting or signposting to other organisations. You can also make an NHS complaint on someone else's behalf with their permission. It’s important to remember that the NHS Complaints Advocacy service is not intended to be punitive, and it isn’t about getting financial compensation. It’s aimed at reaching a resolution between the patient and provider; it’s a learning process. Sometimes an apology or explanation might be appropriate, and for the medical personnel involved, lessons can be learned which may lead to a change of approach or additional professional training.  

If you want to make a complaint by yourself but are not sure where to start you can download self-help materials here.

What we can’t help you with

  • supporting you with a complaint about something that happened more than 1 year ago - unless you have a good reason for not complaining sooner
  • supporting you with a complaint about private health care
  • a complaint about a medical professional’s fitness to practice
  • legal advice
  • medical advice

Who to contact  

To talk to one of our team call 0300 456 2370 or visit NHS Complaints Advocacy in Norfolk for more information.