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Poor NHS Treatment: Don’t be frightened to complain!

Poor NHS TreatmentI am one of the millions of people in this country that have rarely had to complain about poor NHS treatment and I am extremely grateful for the fact that we have a National Health Service. Not everyone will have the same view of course and this is clear from the continuing rise in allegations of clinical negligence across the NHS.

There are numerous ways to raise a complaint regarding a poor experience following NHS care and which route you choose should really depend on your individual circumstances.  Not all complaints are justified and neither do they all automatically mean that there is a case for clinical negligence against that clinician, GP Practice or hospital trust.

If, for example, a hospital sends you the test results relating to another patient, or that due to an administrative error your appointment at the local hospital was booked but you were not notified of it then you have a valid reason to complain but you may not necessarily have the basis of a clinical negligence claim.  Complaints such as the examples given are best directed to the hospital or GP Practice using their complaints procedure.  There is also the PALS Service [Patient Advice and Liaison Service] available and should your complaint fail to be resolved to your satisfaction then you can also refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.  Both these organisations provide an excellent free service but, of course, this does not prevent you from seeking professional legal advice to put your mind at ease on what your legal rights are.

For there to be a potential claim for compensation there needs to be a clear breach of the duty of care owed to you by the clinician which caused you [the claimant] some harm and which was foreseeable.  An obvious example of this is where you were admitted to hospital for surgery to replace your right knee but due to the negligence of the surgeon the procedure was performed on your left knee, which was perfectly healthy.  The allegation would therefore be that the surgeon was negligent in performing an unnecessary surgical procedure on your left knee, from which you had to recover, that you had to undergo the risk of further surgery to complete the original procedure on your right knee and your rehabilitation took much longer than expected.  This might have had a knock-on effect regarding your ability to work resulting in a loss of income and financial hardship.

If you’re unfortunate enough to suffer as a result of poor NHS treatment then you have a number of options regarding how to complain.  Write to the hospital or GP Practice and ask for a copy of their formal complaints procedure.  Follow that procedure, and if they fail to respond to your complaint within the timescales of their own policy, then seek assistance from either the PALS Service or the Health Service Ombudsman.  If you are in any doubt about what to do, or simply need reassurance and guidance on which route to take, then seek professional, legal advice from a firm that has the expertise in dealing with clinical negligence matters.