NHS Health Advocacy – help in making a complaint about treatment received

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The UK’s National Health Service is rated by the US-based Commonwealth Fund as best in the developed world for safety, affordability and efficiency. And we all know it to be one of our most valued and revered welfare institutions.

Very occasionally something goes wrong and needs resolving so that everyone involved can learn and move forward. Let’s view this with statistical perspective. The NHS meets 1 million patients every 36 hours; in 2018-19 a total of 208,924 written complaints were made across all hospital and primary care services. Now that equates to approximately one-tenth of 1 per-cent. Put another way, it’s a little less than 1 in every 1,000. Whichever way you factor it, it’s very low indeed - but every complaint requires acknowledgement and investigation. 

Making a complaint

Most of us don’t like complaining of course. We find it difficult, perhaps even embarrassing, and are not always sure who we should take our concerns to. And we don’t like to criticise a fundamental icon of our welfare state that’s there to help and protect us. But the Department of Health itself emphasises the importance of an open NHS and that listening and acting on patient feedback is critical to improving care. Moreover, the NHS Constitution says you have the right to have your complaint dealt with efficiently and know the outcome. The right first step in to taking forward a complaint or concern about treatment received from the NHS, be that doctor, dentist, pharmacist, receptionist, ambulance service, optician, in hospital or at a health centre, is with the practitioner concerned or their manager. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, the NHS Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is the next step.  

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

How NHS Complaints Advocacy can help

Our advocates can help you to take a complaint forward in the right way to the right people. This can include explaining your options and supporting you with writing a letter, attending a formal meeting or signposting to other organisations. You can also make an NHS complaint on someone else's behalf, with their permission. 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 some change of practice, additional professional training, or a new methodology or process. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has of course been, and still is, a difficult time for health and care services at national and local level. We understand that and want to offer reassurance that, if you have 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. And if you do have concerns about treatment received, you can still contact us for help.

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