Making a complaint. The difference between making a complaint and clinical negligence

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1 Macmillan and Cancerbackup have merged. Together we provide free, high quality information for all. Making a complaint This fact sheet is for people who want to make a complaint because they re unhappy about the treatment or care they have received from a health service. Most people are happy with the treatment and care they get from the healthcare professionals looking after them, so when mistakes are made it s an extremely distressing situation to be in. We can t advise you about whether it s right for you to make However, we hope this fact sheet answers your questions and directs you to other organisations that can help and support you. If you d like to discuss this information with our cancer support specialists, call the Macmillan Support Line free on , Monday Friday, 9am 8pm. If you re hard of hearing you can use textphone , or Text Relay. For non-english speakers, interpreters are available. Alternatively, visit macmillan.org.uk Includes the following information The difference between making a complaint and clinical negligence Why you might want to complain Making a complaint about NHS care What you can do if you're not satisfied Complaining on behalf of someone else Private care Help with your complaint Your medical records Your feelings Useful organisations Related Macmillan information The difference between making a complaint and clinical negligence Making a complaint is different from making a clinical negligence claim. In a clinical negligence case you are asking for money to compensate for injury or death. The main objective of making a complaint is usually to get answers about what went wrong, receive an apology or be told that changes to practice will be made to prevent it from happening again. We have a separate fact sheet called Clinical negligence, which we can send you. Page 1 of 5 Macmillan fact sheet 2012: Making a complaint

2 Why you might want to complain We all have expectations of the kind of healthcare we d like to receive. These may be about communication, waiting times, standards of treatment, levels of hygiene or being cared for compassionately. Hospitals also have expectations of how their staff should behave and the standards they should achieve. Usually these standards are met, but sometimes people feel the care they ve had falls below an acceptable level. When this happens it s natural to be unhappy and to seek an explanation or apology. Making a complaint can be a positive way of dealing with a distressing situation. Getting an apology or an explanation of what went wrong may help you come to terms with it. Sometimes changes to practice are made as a result of To begin with, it s best to speak directly to the doctor or healthcare professional involved. This can sometimes sort the situation out quickly and easily. However, if you d rather not speak directly to them, your local Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) may be able to help resolve your complaint informally. You can find your local PALS office by asking at the hospital or visiting the website pals.nhs.uk Making a complaint about NHS care If you re still not satisfied, or you d prefer to have things dealt with formally, you can make a formal complaint using the NHS complaints procedure. All NHS services are covered by this procedure, which is similar across the UK. You should receive an initial response within three working days of making your complaint. At this initial stage you should be told that your complaint has been received and what will happen next. You should be asked how you would like your complaint to be dealt with for example, by a face-toface meeting or in writing and you should be informed of the likely timescale involved in properly reviewing the complaint. Stages of the complaints procedure There are two stages to the complaints process: local resolution the Ombudsman. Local resolution is the first stage of the NHS complaints procedure. Most cases are resolved (sorted out) at this stage. Ask for a copy of the complaints procedure. Some hospitals have a member of staff who deals with all complaints, such as a complaints manager. Copies of the NHS complaints procedure are available from the hospital, PALS or from the Department of Health's website dh.gov.uk. The staff in the PALS can also help and support with a formal complaint. Every NHS trust in England has a PALS. Your complaint can be verbal or written. It s advisable to make your complaint in writing because you can keep a record of it. Keep a copy of everything you post and a note of when you sent it. If you make a verbal complaint, a member of staff should record it in writing. Writing the complaint Always include as much information as possible, including: dates of when and where the incident took place, and names and positions of the people involved details of any other discussions about your complaint that have already taken place include dates and names of the healthcare professionals you spoke to questions you d like answered and a list of your specific concerns Timing A complaint has to be made within 12 months of the event or within 12 months of when you discovered there was something to complain about. If there are reasons why you couldn t make the complaint within this period, the time limit may be extended. Page 2 of 5 Macmillan fact sheet 2012: Making a complaint

3 what you would like to see happen as a result of your complaint all of your details, such as your name, address, phone numbers and so on. What you can do if you're not satisfied If you re not satisfied with the response to your complaint, you can ask for it to be investigated further or you can complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is completely independent of the NHS and will decide whether or not to investigate your complaint further. You should contact the Ombudsman within a year of when the event took place, or from when you were first aware of it. You will need to fill in a form to explain why you are not satisfied with the way your complaint has been dealt with. Some people may consider taking legal action if they re still not happy with the outcome from the Ombudsman. Complaining on behalf of someone else If you are making a complaint on behalf of someone else, the hospital, clinic or GP practice will need to make sure that you are a suitable representative. You will usually need to have written permission from the person you are complaining for. Private care If you are being treated privately, ask the manager of the hospital or clinic providing your healthcare for their complaints procedure. If your care is through a private healthcare insurance company you can also ask them for advice. Help with your complaint The following organisations can help you make your complaint or give you information and support. Contact details for these organisations are at the end of this fact sheet: England The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) can give you advice, help you write your complaint and go along to the meetings with you. Scotland The Independent Advice and Support Service (IASS) is available from any Citizens Advice. The staff there can guide you through the different stages of making Wales Patient Advocacy services are available through Community Health Councils. They can help you make a complaint about NHS services or your NHS practitioner. Northern Ireland Patient and Client Councils can help you make a complaint about NHS services. You can get more advice about local procedures from: NHS Direct on NHS 24 on (in Scotland). National organisations Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) Offers individual guidance and information about the complaints procedure via its helpline and casework service. The Patients Association Provides an information and signposting service via its website and helpline. Your medical records As part of making a complaint you might want to see your medical records. You ll need to specify if you want copies of scans and x-rays. You don t have to give a reason for asking to see your records and they should be given to you within 40 days of your request. You will usually have to pay for this service. Your feelings Making a complaint can be a difficult and distressing experience. It may be painful to be reminded of what has happened to you Page 3 of 5 Macmillan fact sheet 2012: Making a complaint

4 and to have to go over it frequently. If you still need medical care you may find it hard to trust the healthcare professionals looking after you. It may be helpful to mention this to them so that they can understand your concerns. You re likely to experience a number of different feelings and at times these can be overwhelming. Each person has their own way of coping with difficult situations. Some people find it helpful to talk to friends or family, while others prefer to get help from people outside their situation. Some people prefer to keep their feelings to themselves. There s no right or wrong way to cope. The organisations listed here may be able to offer you advice and support. You may also find it helpful to talk to a trained counsellor who can listen and help you deal with difficult emotions. Our cancer support specialists can give you advice about finding a counsellor in your area. Useful organisations England Care Quality Commission (formerly the Healthcare Commission) Finsbury Tower, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TG Tel via website The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP Tel (Mon Fri, 8.30am 5.30pm) The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) ICAS can support you and help you raise a concern about NHS care or treatment. It's free, confidential and independent. You can find your local ICAS office on the NHS Choices website Scotland Independent Advice and Support Service Contact the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau: Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) 1 st Floor Spectrum House, 2 Powderhall Road, Edinburgh EH7 4GB Tel Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) 4 Melville Street, Edinburgh EH3 7NS Freephone Wales Board of Community Health Councils in Wales 2 nd Floor, Cathedral Road, Cardiff CF11 9HB Tel Public Services Ombudsman for Wales 1 Ffordd yr Hen Gae, Pencoed CF35 5LJ Tel via website Northern Ireland Patient and Client Councils There are four Patient and Client Councils in Northern Ireland. You can contact your local office by calling or by ing Northern Ireland Commissioner of Complaints Write to: The Ombudsman, Freepost BEL 1478, Belfast BT1 6BR Call in (9.30am 4pm) at: The Ombudsman s Office, 33 Wellington Place, Belfast BT1 6HN Freephone Page 4 of 5 Macmillan fact sheet 2012: Making a complaint

5 National organisations Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) 44 High Street, Croydon CR0 1YB Helpline (Mon Fri, 10am 5pm) AvMA provides free, independent advice and support, and has caseworkers who help people through the process of making Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) Provides information, advice and local support to help patients, families and their carers. The Patients Association PO Box 935, Harrow HA1 3YJ Helpline (Mon Fri, 9.30am 5pm) The helpline provides information on what patients are entitled to and how to make Related Macmillan information Clinical negligence For copies of this related information call free on , or see it online at macmillan.org.uk This fact sheet has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support s Cancer Information Development team. It has been approved by our medical editor Dr Terry Priestman, Consultant Clinical Oncologist. With thanks to Timothy Spring, Clinical Negligence Solicitor, and the people affected by cancer who reviewed this edition. This fact sheet was revised in The next edition will be available in We make every effort to ensure that the information we provide is accurate but it should not be relied upon to reflect the current state of medical research, which is constantly changing. If you are concerned about your health, you should consult your doctor. Macmillan cannot accept liability for any loss or damage resulting from any inaccuracy in this information or third-party information such as information on websites to which we link. Macmillan Cancer Support Registered charity in England and Wales (261017), Scotland (SC039907) and the Isle of Man (604). Registered office 89 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7UQ. MAC11705_12 Page 5 of 5 Macmillan fact sheet 2012: Making a complaint

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