NHS Complaints Advocacy – resolving concerns about medical treatment received

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Our National Health Service is still rated best in the developed world for safety, affordability and efficiency, according to the US-based Commonwealth Fund. But very occasionally – and it’s around one-tenth of one per-cent of all patient cases - something goes wrong and need resolving.

Patients have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of care, treatment or service received from the NHS, and this is clearly set out in the NHS Constitution which you can find here

‘Complaint’ might be seen as a strong word. Sometimes it comes down to providing feedback so that services can be improved upon if need be.  But if a complaint is justified there are established. procedures available to try to put things right. The NHS endorses and supports this – you can read more on this here.

How to go about making a complaint

It’s often worthwhile discussing concerns about your treatment, or that of a family member, with the person who provided the care. Many problems can be dealt with at that level, but in some cases people feel more comfortable speaking to someone not directly involved in their care and treatment. So the next step is to contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS), available in most hospitals.

NHS Complaints Advocacy

There’s also a free, confidential, independent NHS Complaints Advocacy Service. In Norfolk that’s provided by a partnership of POhWER, Equal Lives, Age UK Norfolk and CAN. We can assign an advocate to help you with taking your complaint forward in the best and most appropriate way. This might involve writing a complex letter detailing all aspects of your complaint, attending a meeting with you, or helping you review the information you’ve been given. You can also make an NHS complaint on someone else's behalf, with their permission. 

You can seek advice from NHS Complaints Advocacy at any stage of the process. If you decide you need some support, contact us on 0300 456 2370 or click here for more information about NHS Complaints Advocacy in Norfolk.  Our advocates can help you to take a complaint forward in the right way to the right people.  The only proviso is that we need to take up your complaint within one year of its occurrence.

It is important to remember that the NHS Complaints Advocacy service is not intended to be punitive, nor is it about attempting financial compensation. It is primarily aimed at bringing about resolution between the patient and medical services; it’s a learning process. For the patient or their representative an apology or explanation might be appropriate, and for the medical personnel involved, lessons can be learned which may or may not entail a change in how treatment is given, additional professional training, or a new methodology or process. 

This is of course a difficult time for health and care services at national and local level with the continuing Covid-19 pandemic. We understand that and want to offer reassurance that, if you or someone you know has a complaint in process with us, you will not be ignored; it just may take a little longer to steer the process at this difficult time. 

Finally, if you work with vulnerable service users, we can send you a supply of easy-to-read leaflets that explain how NHS Complaints Advocacy works.