For those patients dissatisfied with NHS treatment, there is a right to make a complaint using the NHS complaints procedure. The procedure changed from 1st April 2009.
The new procedure in designed to be more flexible, stream-lined and user friendly, with the emphasis on helping organisations to learn and improve from complaints so hopefully the same error will not happen to another patient.
The new approach is to discuss the way the complaint will be handled and confirm when the hospital’s investigation will be completed. This should be good news for patients, giving them more power to take control of the process and to have input into how their concerns are investigated. It should also have an impact on improving hospital services.
It is common now for the patient to be invited to discuss the issues at a round table meeting with a member of the clinical staff such as the doctor, consultant or nurse. This gives the opportunity to have a more detailed explanation of medical treatment than might have been possible at an outpatient’s appointment and patients can make suggestions for improvements to the service. Often the meeting is recorded and the patient will receive a copy of the recording.
A written report explaining how the complaint has been considered, the conclusions reached and details of action taken to make improvements in the future should be provided within 6 months. If the matter is not resolved locally it can be referred to the Health Service Ombudsman. Previously the Healthcare Commission had to be involved before the patient could go to the Ombudsman but this step has now been removed. The time limit for making a complaint has now been extended to 12 months from the date of the substandard care, although this can be longer in certain circumstances.