Should I make a hospital complaint or bring a legal claim?

Should you be making a hospital complaint or bringing a legal claim? For further information contact our free legal helpline on freephone on 0333 888 0404 or send us an email.

NHS hospital complaints

NHS patients are entitled to make a hospital complaint where they are dissatisfied with the standard of care they have received.

Hospital complaints tend to be very wide-ranging and include issues such as:

  • delays
  • incorrect treatment or diagnosis
  • failure to communicate
  • cancelled operations and procedures
  • lack of personal care
  • poor hygiene or cleanliness
  • conduct of NHS staff
  • the standard of treatment
  • failure to obtain consent
  • discharged too early
  • mistakes in medication
  • inadequate pain relief
  • lost or incorrect medical records
  • failed or defective medical products
  • carelessness leading to injury

Who do you complain to?

If you decide that you would like to make a complaint there are a number of options open to you.

Most patients choose to use the NHS complaints procedure and you will find a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) in most hospitals, who will try and help resolve the issue before you need to make a formal complaint.  This can be particularly helpful if you have concerns about the treatment being provided while you are in hospital.  If your care was in a private hospital, but your treatment was funded by the NHS, you can make a complaint to the private hospital or the Clinical Commissioning Group.  You can also report your concerns to the appropriate regulatory body of the health care professional you feel is directly at fault. Alternatively you can report matters to the Care Quality Commission, the Clinical Commissioning Group (the body responsible for buying and commissioning hospital services), Healthwatch, or through the NHS Choices website.  If you need assistance making your complaint, you can obtain support through The Advocacy People or VoiceAbility.

What do you want to achieve from making a hospital complaint?

When you make a hospital complaint you should think about what you want to achieve from it.

The most common reasons for making a hospital complaint are:

·         the desire to receive a better service

·         the wish to improve the service for the benefit of future patients

·         for an explanation of why you were let down

·         for an apology

·         the desire for a healthcare professional to be formally disciplined

·         compensation

Time limits on making a complaint

You should not delay in making your hospital complaint, as the sooner the complaint is made the easier it will be for the complaint to be satisfactorily investigated.

Complaints must generally be made within a year of the event which caused it to be made. If you weren’t aware of the issue within the first 12 months then you should make your complaint as soon as you find out about it.

An extension to the time limit will only be considered if it’s still possible to properly and fairly investigate the complaint or there is some other compelling reason.

When would I be better off bringing a legal claim rather than a complaint?

Some issues are better suited to the hospital complaints procedure. Matters such as standards of cleanliness, attitude of staff, concerns about waiting lists and lack of communication tend not to be things that would be serious enough to warrant legal action.

However, when the patient’s health has been seriously impacted by a clear error or mistake then it is often beneficial to seek legal advice from a solicitor specialising in medical negligence law.

This is particularly the case where the patient has suffered injury and financial loss as a result, and their primary focus is on securing compensation.

By making a legal claim you can recover compensation for:

·        your injuries

·         the impact on your life

·         lost earnings

·         future medical treatment

·         the cost of care

·         the cost of equipment or adaptations to your home

Time limits for bringing a legal claim

You must commence court action within three years of the date of the incident that injured you, or the date you first realised you’d suffered injury. Because cases usually need to be thoroughly investigated before court proceedings are commenced it is recommended that you discuss the case with a solicitor as early as possible and do not leave matters to the last minute.

For children, time does not start to run until their 18th birthday.

Time limits do not apply to patients who lack mental capacity

Paying legal costs

It is rarely cost effective to pay a solicitor to deal with a hospital complaint on your behalf. However, where there is a possibility that a legal claim may be brought we are always happy to offer initial guidance on a free of charge basis through our popular helpline.

We are also able to fund legal claims against hospitals on a no win, no fee basis. This means that you do not have to fund your claim upfront and will not have to pay the legal fees if you don’t win your case.

If you are interested in our no win, no fee funding option then we will be very happy to explain how it works and discuss what it involves.

Free legal helpline

If you are thinking about making a hospital claim or need guidance on making a hospital complaint that may lead to a legal claim being made, then you can contact our free helpline by calling 0333 888 0404 or sending an email to [email protected]

Lee Dawkins

Lee Dawkins

Over the past 30 years Lee has overseen the expansion of the firm’s litigation department. He developed our personal injury and clinical negligence teams, creating various niche areas that now enjoy a national profile. He pioneered contentious probate, setting up one of the UK's leading inheritance dispute teams and established Slee Blackwell as a force within claimant professional negligence. He now works as the firm's marketing partner.
Lee Dawkins

Lee Dawkins

Over the past 30 years Lee has overseen the expansion of the firm’s litigation department. He developed our personal injury and clinical negligence teams, creating various niche areas that now enjoy a national profile. He pioneered contentious probate, setting up one of the UK's leading inheritance dispute teams and established Slee Blackwell as a force within claimant professional negligence. He now works as the firm's marketing partner.

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Call the Slee Blackwell helpline on 0333 888 0404