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When you're not happy

doctor records patients grievances

If there’s a problem with your healthcare or if something has upset you, your first step is usually to try to deal with the problem informally.

How should I tackle a problem with my health care?

If you are not happy with the care you have received from any healthcare provider, your first step is normally to try to deal with the problem informally. You could speak directly to the member of staff concerned or you might prefer to talk to someone more senior (for example, the practice manager at a GP surgery).

There’s a good chance that he or she will appreciate the problem, apologise, and try to put things right.

Making a complaint

If talking doesn’t resolve the problem, try getting things in writing. A letter may help convince the organisation that the problem is serious. Keep a copy of your letter, and any replies you receive.

Every NHS organisation has a complaints procedure. Ask to see a copy if you haven’t already been told about it. This will set out how you can make a formal complaint and the timetable for a response to it.

What can I do if my complaint isn’t handled well?

If you are not happy with the way your complaint is handled, you can complain to the ombudsman – a body that looks at complaints about public organisations. You can find out about how to complain to the ombudsman on the Citizens Advice Bureau Advice Guide.

It’s also worth remembering that you don’t need to stay with the same doctor or the same clinic if you’re not happy. You can simply find another one that is accepting new patients. You don’t need to give a reason for switching, and you shouldn’t be treated any differently for doing so.

There are organisations that can help you with problems and advise you on what action to take if you are unhappy. Contact your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (or PALS) or your local Healthwatch or NHS Complaints Advocacy in England, Community Health Councils (Wales), the Patient Advice and Support Service (Scotland) or the Patient and Client Council (Northern Ireland), or your local citizens advice bureau.

They are there to:

  • help resolve problems
  • explain how to make an official complaint
  • give you information about NHS services
  • provide confidential advice and support on using the NHS.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against because you have HIV, you can contact either the Equality Advisory and Support Service or THT Direct. They can give you advice about challenging discrimination and taking the case further.



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The Information Standard: Certified member

This article was last reviewed on 16/7/2014 by R. Bignami

Date due for the next review: 16/7/2016

Content Author: R. Pebody, NAM

Current Owner: G. Hughson, NAM

More information:

NHS Choices: Complaints

Citizens Advice Bureau Adviceguide