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Medical Negligence

Making a Complaint about a Hospital

Sadly, Bolt Burdon Kemp knows only too well that the standard of care patients receive in hospital is not always of the required standard – and when the worst happens, it can seem very difficult to have your complaint heard.

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If you are dissatisfied with the care or treatment you have received from a hospital, you have the right to complain.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp we have helped many people win compensation, usually on a no-win, no-fee basis. Get in touch with us now for expert advice and to discuss making a claim for compensation.

Here is our guide to making a complaint about the treatment you received in hospital. Don’t forget, your complaint can run alongside any claim for compensation. If you choose to make a complaint first, however, this will not prevent time from running toward the time limit to bring a claim.

Private or NHS hospitals

The complaints process you follow will depend on whether you were treated in a private or NHS hospital.

How to make a complaint – private hospitals

All private hospitals are required to have their own complaints policy. There is no standard process; however, this should be similar to the NHS complaints procedure. You will need to request a copy of the complaints procedure from the hospital, or from their website.

If you are dissatisfied with the treatment or care you have received in a private hospital, you can:

  • Raise your concerns directly with your treating consultant – you can do this verbally, but ensure you keep a record of who you spoke to and when
  • Write a formal complaint by letter or email to the hospital if your concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction or you do not feel comfortable dealing directly with your treating consultant
  • Write a formal complaint directly to the treating consultant in addition to the hospital itself

How to make a complaint – NHS hospitals

If you are not happy with the treatment or care you have received in an NHS hospital, there is a standard NHS procedure to follow if you would like to make a complaint. A copy of this, along with the contact details of who you should address your complaint to, can be requested from the hospital or downloaded from website of the NHS Trust it belongs to.

  • If you wish to make a complaint about your care or treatment at an NHS hospital you can:
  • Raise your concerns with a senior member of staff, keeping a record of who you spoke to and when
  • Seek advice about making a complaint from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Most NHS hospitals have a PALS office on site, however they are not independent

Make a formal written complaint by letter or email if your concerns are not addressed to your satisfaction or you do not feel comfortable dealing directly with staff in the hospital. You should address the complaint to the Chief Executive, or the complaints department of the NHS trust the hospital belongs to

If you received treatment in a private hospital that was paid for by the NHS then you should follow the private hospital’s complaint procedure.

What to include in your complaint

Making a complaint provides an opportunity to express your dissatisfaction and ask for an explanation for the care or treatment you have received. When making a formal complaint it should be made in writing (by letter or email) and should include:

  • What your complaint is about and who it involves
  • The events that took place, and when they happened
  • Your questions about what occurred
  • Whether you would like a formal apology, or a meeting to discuss it
  • How you can be contacted

How your complaint should be handled

Once you have submitted a formal complaint the hospital should:

  • Acknowledge the complaint in writing
  • Investigate the issues referred to in the complaint
  • Provide a comprehensive response to your complaint in writing
  • They may also offer you a meeting or an apology

What to do if you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint

  • Private hospitals

If you are unhappy with the way the private hospital has dealt with your complaint, you may be able to refer the matter to the Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) – an independent body that deals with complaints regarding its voluntary members. You can find out if your hospital is a member on the ISCAS website

For a list of the other healthcare regulators in England, visit the NHS website.

  • NHS hospitals

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint or the way it was handled, you can write to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). The PHSO will investigate whether the complaints procedure was followed correctly

£40,000 for delay in diagnosing immune thrombocytopenic purpura

Ms E, unknown to her, developed immune thrombocytopenic purpura during her first pregnancy. Sadly, this serious and life threatening condition was not identified during her pregnancy. It was not until Ms E was in labour that hospital staff picked up on her condition. By that point she had already been administered an epidural to help with the labour pain meaning that there was a substantial risk of epidural haematoma (internal bleeding into the spine) and permanent paralysis. After the birth, she reported loss of sensation in her legs and had to be transferred to another hospital to undergo an MRI scan to exclude epidural haematoma. Ms E subsequently developed psychiatric injuries as a result of these traumatic events, all of which could have been easily avoided had the dangerously low platelet count been picked up sooner. After an admission of liability from the Defendant hospital, the case was settled for £40,000

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