Advice and Support on Healthcare Concerns
Provided by the Independent Advice and Support Service
We can help you (or someone else on your behalf) if:
- You have comments or complaints about the treatment you've received in hospital, from your GP, dentist, nurse, or from any other part of the NHS, and you're not sure what to do next.
- Ill-health or disability is having an impact on other areas of your life, and you'd like some advice or help.
Making a complaint about the NHS
You have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS treatment using the NHS complaints procedure. To use the procedure you must usually be a patient or a former patient of the practitioner or institution concerned, although it is possible to complain on behalf of someone else. If you want to complain on behalf of another person, the hospital or practice must agree that you are a suitable representative.
There is a useful leaflet called Making a complaint about the NHS. It is available on the Health Rights Information Scotland (HRIS) website at www.hris.org.uk.
Time limits for making a complaint
You should make your complaint as soon as possible after the problem incident. The time limit for complaints is usually six months from the date of this incident. However, if a hospital or practice is unaware of the complaint, the six months limit starts from the time they first know about it as long as this is within twelve months of the date of the incident.
There is discretion to waive the time limit where it would be unreasonable to expect you to have complained in time, for example, because of grief or trauma. It must, however, still be possible to investigate the complaint.
The NHS complaints procedure
First stage – Local Resolution
If you want to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS treatment you have received or been refused, go to the practice, hospital or trust concerned and ask for a copy of their complaints procedure. This is the same for GPs, opticians, dentists, hospitals, and any other care given by the NHS.
In all cases the first stage of the procedure is to make a complaint to the practitioner concerned. This first stage is called Local Resolution. A large health centre may have a member of staff designated as complaints manager. A smaller practice will probably not have such a person, but all NHS practices have a procedure, and someone who has responsibility for it. In most cases the matter will be resolved at this stage.
If your complaint is about primary care services (GPs and other family health services), the complaints manager can arrange for an independent conciliator to be brought in to help resolve the complaint. A conciliator or mediator might also be available to help resolve complaints about other types of NHS services.
Second stage – referral to the Ombudsman
If your complaint is not resolved through local resolution you can refer the matter to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman or seek a judicial review.
It may be possible to challenge the final decision on your complaint by seeking a judicial review. Judicial review is a procedure which allows a court of law to review decisions made by public bodies. You will need to consult a solicitor if you plan to seek a judicial review.
Help with your complaint
If you would like help or support in making a complaint about the NHS, you can contact the Independent Advice and Support Service.
This service is part of the Scottish Citizens Advice Bureau Service and is funded by local NHS Boards. It aims to support patients, their carers and relatives in their dealings with the NHS and in other matters affecting their health.
Freefone 0800 328 2519