Personal Injury, Serious Injury & Clinical Negligence

Complaints to NHS “too difficult” according to Ombudsman

A survey, commissioned by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman who is responsible for investigating complaints about NHS England, has found that many people do not report complaints about the NHS and other public services, because the procedure is too difficult.

Healthwatch, a charity promoting consumer rights in healthcare, estimates that there are 2,000 incidents of poor care every day across the country, yet last year the Ombudsman was asked to look into only 8,000 complaints.  Healthwatch is calling upon Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt to implement a plan to create an effective and compassionate complaints system that both gives patients what they need and ensures the NHS and social care services can learn from their mistakes.

In 2014, 27% of public service users were unhappy with the service they received, but only a third of those people made a complaint; reasons given for not complaining included a sense that to do so would be “pointless”, it was more hassle than it was worth, and that the process was too time consuming.

The Department of Health has responded to the criticism, stating “we have made it easier for people to know how to complain through clearer information, we’ve made hospitals legally obliged to apologise to patients when mistakes happen and introduced complaints handling as a crucial element of tougher hospital inspections”.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman disagrees however, claiming that public services “lose opportunities to learn from mistakes” and that the complaints system must be “simple and accessible”.

Clarke Willmott’s clinical negligence specialists understand the difficulties facing those who wish to claim about their treatment and often assist with the complaints procedure.  More often than not, clients are looking for a simple explanation or apology.

In cases where treatment has been substandard and has caused injury and loss, our experts are able to advise both on the complaints procedure and the merits of a claim for compensation.

It is important that people are aware of their right to make a complaint about the service they have received.  Such complaints can ensure that lessons are learned from any mistakes to improve standards of treatment and care for others within the NHS and social services.

For further information about the NHS complaints procedure, download our NHS Complaints fact sheet here

If you, or anyone you know, would like to discuss the complaints or claims procedure, please call our specialist lawyers on 0800 316 8892 or by email