Understanding how to complain about medical treatment is really important. If you’re unsure on the steps you should take, we’re here to help you through this process. Partnering with us and gaining the help of a specialist medical solicitor during your complaints process can minimise stress in what we know is already a stressful situation.
Remember that making a medical complaint is different to making a medical negligence claim (more on this later). However, even if you do have a medical negligence claim, you can still complain to your healthcare provider.
If you are a reasonable letter writer, it is always best to draft a complaint in your own words. We can then look it over for you before you send it off and suggest any additional questions that you may not have thought of.
How to Complain About Medical Negligence
Complaining about medical treatment can vary slightly depending on what type of service you receive. In this guide, we explain how to complain about medical treatment when dealing with the following types of providers:
- NHS Hospital
- Private Care
- Nursing Home
How to Complain About GP Treatment
You may be able to get your complaint dealt with straight away regarding negligent GP treatment, although this will vary from surgery to surgery. Regardless, there will be a procedure that your GP has for dealing with complaints.
When complaining to the NHS, it is advised that you make your complaint within twelve months of treatment. Complaining as soon as possible helps to ensure the events stay fresh in everyone’s memory. The twelve month time limit can be extended sometimes as long as an investigation is still possible.
To complain, you should:
- Identify the practice manager at your specific GP surgery or speak directly to the GP.
- Request a copy of the GP surgery’s complaints process to make a formal complaint. This could typically be on the website or within the surgery itself.
- Write a letter to the GP practice detailing your complaint. If you need support with writing your letter, we can assist you with that.
- Ensure you keep a record of the communication you have with the surgery.
- You should receive an acknowledgement within three working days. If you do not receive one in this time, you should chase this up.
- The final written response you receive should include an explanation of what happened and they may offer you a meeting.
- If you are invited to attend a meeting, you should take someone with you and write down what is said. You can also ask to make an audio or video recording of the meeting - you cannot do this without the permission of those in attendance. You do not have to attend a meeting. Alternatively, you can ask for your complaint to be dealt with by way of a written response only.
- If you send your complaints correspondence to us, we can then advise you whether the matter should be pursued any further.
How to Complain About a Hospital
If you are unhappy with NHS hospital care, you can first access the Patient Advice and Liaison Service free of charge. Here, you will find a team member available to help you with your problem informally.
Following this, if you still feel the need to make a hospital complaint, you can:
- Find out the name of the hospital’s Patient Representative or Complaints Coordinator via the website or by speaking to the hospital directly.
- Send your written complaint to the Patient Representative or Complaints Coordinator. If you need support with writing your complaint, just let us know and we can advise you.
- You may be invited to attend a meeting. In this case, you should bring someone with you, ensure you record the information (if this is agreed), and request written confirmation of what the hospital says after the meeting.
You can complain about an NHS hospital within twelve months of an occurrence or mistreatment. Alternatively, you can complain within twelve months of realising that you could have obtained an injury from NHS hospital care.
How to Complain About Private Care
You can complain about private care directly to the hospital or practitioner in question by following these steps:
- Private health care practitioners should detail their complaints procedure on their website. If not, you should contact them directly and ask for a copy for your reference.
- We recommend issuing your complaint in writing so that you can keep a copy of your letter (and all correspondence) for your records. If you would like assistance with writing your complaints letter, we will be happy to look over it for you.
- If you are not satisfied with the response, the only option in respect of private care is to complain to the General Medical Council (see below) or take legal action.
How to Complain About a Nursing Home
To complain about a nursing home, you can:
- Identify the care home manager and the care home’s complaints procedure. Ask for this in writing for your reference.
- Write a letter of complaint, being as specific as possible and including how you expect the matter to be resolved. It is good to do this in writing so you have a record of correspondence.
- If the complaint hasn’t been resolved or you’re not satisfied with the response you receive, you can escalate the complaint by contacting your local council (if the home is funded by the local council).
- If you are unhappy with how the local council handles your complaint, you will need to contact the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
What Should I Include When Making a Formal Medical Complaint?
If you want to complain about medical treatment, you need to ensure you include key pieces of information in your complaint, including:
- What/who you are making a complaint about
- The occurrence and when it took place
- Your demands to resolve the complaint
- Any relevant contact details
How Much Time Do I Have to Make a Medical Complaint?
The good news is that you typically have up to a year to complain from when the incident occurred or when it came to your attention. Under special circumstances, the time limit can be extended.
However, it is advised that you make your complaint within six months of mistreatment or realisation of mistreatment. This helps to ensure everybody involved can clearly remember what happened.
You should also be aware that there is a three-year time limit for starting a medical negligence claim – either from the date of the occurrence or from the date you realised treatment was negligent.
In special cases, the Court may grant an exception and allow a case to proceed out of time. Regardless, we would always advise starting your claim as early as possible.
If you are concerned about time limits, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll advise you on the best course of action.
What is the Difference Between a Medical Complaint And a Medical Claim?
When it comes to complaining about medical negligence, you should first be aware of the difference between a complaint and a claim.
You don’t have to have suffered an injury during medical care to complain about medical treatment. On the other hand, to make a medical negligence claim, you need evidence that you have been injured due to negligence.
So, if you’re unhappy with your medical experience but you haven’t suffered harm as a result, you may consider making a complaint rather than a claim.
Do I Have Rights When Making a Complaint?
When complaining about medical treatment with the NHS, you have certain rights. After all, NHS workers are obliged to be transparent about any investigation involving you.
- Your medical complaint must be investigated and dealt with properly, and you must be told the result of it.
- You can take your complaint further to the Ombudsman if you are unsatisfied with the result.
- You can request a Judicial Review in the circumstances that an unlawful approach has directly impacted you.
- You can pursue a case for compensation if you have received an injury via negligent treatment.
How Can I Take My Medical Complaint Further?
The Care Quality Commission
The Care Quality Commission is the health and social care regulator for England.
You can take your complaint further with them if you are not happy with the response to your complaint that was made directly to the medical care provider.
Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman
If you aren’t satisfied with how your GP or hospital has handled a complaint, you can write to the free-of-charge Ombudsman within twelve months of realising you have a complaint. You may be able to request assistance after this period in certain circumstances. Note that:
- The Ombudsman can only investigate specific complaints, and you have to have obtained your GP’s final response before the Ombudsman can investigate your problem.
- We recommend writing your complaint in order to keep a written record, although you are able to phone the organisation too.
You would need to complete a Complaints form. This form can be downloaded and printed off here. Or, you can telephone for a form on 0845 015 4033.
Their contact details are:
The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman,
Millbank Tower, Millbank,
London SW1 4QP.
As of September 2022, current wait times for Ombudsman to look at your case are between nine and eleven months for complaints about the NHS. Unfortunately, this lengthy waiting time is a lingering impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The General Medical Council (GMC)
The GMC can investigate any complaint they receive about a Doctor, whether it comes from a member of the public, from another Doctor or from a Public Authority and every complaint is considered carefully.
The GMC cannot award compensation, but they can take action ranging from a warning letter to, in the most serious cases, restricting or removing the Doctor’s right to practice medicine.
In the first instance, you should raise a concern using their online form or write to:
The GMC Fitness to Practice Directorate, General Medical Council,
St James’ Building,
79 Oxford Street,
Manchester M1 6FQ.
There is no time limit for making a complaint with them, but you should:
- Give them as much information as you can, including the full name and address of the Doctor and the full names and addresses of all your friends and relatives who can support your complaint from their own personal knowledge. This will help the GMC see if the matter is appropriate for them to pursue.
- Make it clear in your initial letter to the GMC if you wish the Doctor involved to know that you are making a complaint to the GMC. Otherwise, they will not let the Doctor know immediately.
If the GMC decide your complaint should be taken further, the following actions may take place:
- The GMC will ask you to make a sworn written Statement to support your complaint.
- You may be charged for this service to have your Statement and letter put to the GMC in a suitable form together with any other helpful information.
- You would then need to take your Statement to another solicitor to be sworn which would cost a minimum of £5.00 plus £2.00 for each exhibit attached to the Statement.
Is It Worth Complaining About the NHS?
It is undoubtedly worth complaining about the NHS if you are unsatisfied with one of its services. We recommend letting the practice know about your issues sooner rather than later so that your complaint may be resolved quicker.
Many issues discussed with the NHS are sorted out at an early stage, although you could get a third party involved if you feel uncomfortable discussing matters with someone involved in your medical treatment.
Do Hospitals Take Patient Complaints Seriously?
The answer here is yes. Hospitals take complaints seriously, with Risk Management taking on the responsibility to listen to each patient issue. Hospitals are obliged to take note of any complaints by patients and respond via written communication as soon as they have been addressed.
Medical Solicitors Are Here to Help You
Our experienced team of specialist solicitors here at Medical Solicitors can help guide you if you are unhappy with the medical treatment you received. Whether you’re looking to make a medical negligence claim or a negligence complaint, we are here to provide free, no-obligation legal advice.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team and schedule a chat today.
Extra Assistance with Your Medical Complaint
If you require a little help in making your complaint, you may access assistance from independent advocacy services. There are many available around the country, including:
Cloverleaf Advocacy Service
Cloverleaf cover areas across much of the North of England, including Lancashire, Calderdale, Kirklees, Barnsley, Wakefield, Rotherham, North Lincolnshire, North East Lincolnshire, Hull and East Riding of Yorkshire. You can search for your area here.
Tel: 01924 454875
PASS – Professional Advocacy Support Service
This organisation covers East Yorkshire & Humberside
Tel: 01482 845276
Mind in Derbyshire
This organisation covers Derby City
Tel: 01332 623732
Age UK Derby & Derbyshire
This organisation covers Derby & Derbyshire.
Tel: 01773 768240
NHS Complaints Advocacy
This organisation operates in a number of areas, including Bolton, Bradford, Doncaster, East Riding of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Lincolnshire, Sunderland and more. Go to their website to see if they operate in your area, or call their helpline number.
Tel: 0300 330 5454
The Advocacy People
This organisation predominantly covers areas in the South of England, including Bournemouth, Poole, Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Dorset, East Sussex, Isles of Scilly, Kent, Milton Keynes, Reading, Southampton, Wiltshire and more.
Tel: 0330 440 9000
Text: PEOPLE to 80800
This organisation covers the London Borough of Bromley.
Tel: 020 8460 6712
This organisation covers Sandwell, in the West Midlands.
Tel: 0121 520 8070
This organisation covers a range of areas throughout England, including Brighton and Hove, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, North Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk, Buckinghamshire, Birmingham, London and more.
Tel: 0300 456 2370
OPAALUK – Advocating Change for Older People
This organisation helps older people across all areas of the UK
The guide was last updated on 4th April 2023.