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'Making A Complaint About Hospital Treatment'

The Hospital Complaints Procedures Act 1985 requires health authorities to make arrangements for dealing with hospital patient complaints (by having a designated officer to deal with them) and to give adequate publicity to these arrangements. The NHS complaints procedure which came into effect in April 1996 provides for the following steps if you have a complaint about hospital treatment:

  • Stage One: Wherever possible, you shold tell someone close to the cause of your complaint (eg a doctor, nurse or receptionist). If you would prefer to talk to someone not involved in your treatment then you can telephone or write to the NHS Trust hospital's Complaints Manager. The Chief Executive will ensure that your complaint is investigated by front line Trust staff. The Patient's Charter guarantees you a full response from the Chief Executive, normally within 4 weeks. Most complaints should be handled at this stage and have a local resolution.

  • Stage Two: If you remain dissatisfied you have the option of asking, within 28 days of the written reply to your complaint, for an independent review panel to be set up by a non-executive member of the NHS Trust board, or Convener. The panel is made up of three members; the Convener, and a Chair and third member who are independent. Independent clinical assessors will be involved in appropriate cases. The panel recommends action to address the complaint.

  • Stage Three: If you are still dissatisfied with the response to the complaint, or a decision not to convene an independent review panel, you can ask the Health Service Commissioner (Ombudsman) to investigate. The Ombudsman, who is independent of the NHS and the Government, can be contacted at 11th Floor, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4QP Tel: 0171 217 4051 (England); 4th Floor Pearl Assurance House, Greyfriars Road, Cardiff CF1 3AG Tel: 01222 394621 (Wales); 28 Thistle Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EN Tel: 0131 225 7465 (Scotland); Progressive House, 33 Wellington Place, Belfast BT1 6HN Tel: 01232 233821 (Northern Ireland).

Community Health Councils (Health & Social Services Councils in Northern Ireland, and Local Health Councils in Scotland) have an important role in publicising the complaints procedure and providing information and support to people with a complaint.

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