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A Guide to the NHS Complaints System in Scotland

NHS Complaints System in Scotland

NHS treatment is provided in Hospitals and other locations such as GP Practices. Such facilities are there to provide essential care to millions of people every day. Despite the best efforts of medical professionals, patients may sometimes have negative experiences that lead to complaints. These complaints can range from issues with staff communication and bedside manner, to concerns about medical procedures and treatments.

Our medical negligence lawyers in Scotland have provided an initial helpful guide to the NHS complaints system in Scotland below:-

Who can complain?

Any patient can make a complaint to NHS Scotland. You can complain directly to the NHS, or if you would rather have someone make the complaint on your behalf, the NHS will deal with your representative. This could be a relative, a carer, a friend, or any other person you choose.

If you agree to someone making the complaint on your behalf, it is important to know that the NHS will ask your permission (consent) to deal with that person.

The complaint can be against GPs, opticians, dentist, hospitals, and any other NHS care provider.   

How do I complain about a treatment provided to me in Scotland?

You can complain in person at the place where you have received care, treatment or advice, or where the incident that you wa­nt to complain about happened. You can also complain by phone, in writing or by email.

Such complaints may include

  1. Quality of Care: Patients may complain about the quality of care they received, such as inadequate pain management, lack of attention from medical staff, or failure to diagnose or treat a medical condition.
  2. Communication: Patients may feel that they were not properly informed or involved in their care, or that they did not receive clear explanations about their medical condition or treatment plan.
  3. Facilities and Accommodations: Patients may complain about the cleanliness of the hospital, the quality of the food or the temperature of the rooms.
  4. Wait Times: Patients may complain about long wait times in the emergency room or delays in getting test results.
  5. Billing and Insurance: Patients may complain about unclear or incorrect billing statements or unexpected charges, as well as difficulties with insurance coverage.
  6. Staff Attitudes and Behaviours: Patients may complain about unprofessional or disrespectful behaviour by hospital staff, such as rudeness, neglect or disregard for their privacy.
  7. Discharge Planning: Patients may feel that they were discharged too soon or without proper instructions, or that their transition to home care or a rehabilitation facility was not adequately planned or coordinated.

Is it worth complaining to the NHS?

It is worth complaining to the NHS if you have a concern or complaint about the care or treatment you or a loved one received. The NHS takes patient feedback seriously and has systems in place to address complaints and make improvements to the quality of care provided.

Complaining to the NHS can help to:

  1. Improve care: Your complaint may lead to changes in the way that healthcare is provided, which can benefit both you and other patients.
  2. Hold healthcare providers accountable: Complaints can help to identify and address any areas of misconduct or negligence by healthcare providers.
  3. Provide closure: Complaints can help to bring closure for patients and their families who have experienced harm or distress as a result of their healthcare.
  4. Increase trust: Complaining can help to build trust in the healthcare system, as patients and their families see that their concerns are taken seriously and addressed.

What steps can I take to have my complaint addressed?

Contact the hospital directly: Most hospitals in Scotland have a complaints department that patients can contact directly. Patients can make their complaints in writing, by phone, or in person. They should expect to receive a response within a set timeframe, typically 28 days.

Get help from NHS Inform.  Patients can get independent advice and support on how to make a complaint about their experience by visiting the NHS Inform website or calling the helpline.

Contact the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.  If a patient is not satisfied with the response they receive, they can escalate their complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO). The SPSO is an independent body that investigates complaints about public services in Scotland, including hospitals and other NHS locations.

Raise a concern directly with a healthcare professional. If a patient feels their complaint is related to a specific treatment or procedure, they can raise their concern with the healthcare professional who was responsible for their care.

Who do I address my complaint to and what is the NHS complaints number in Scotland?

Your complaint may involve more than one NHS body or service, or relate to both health and social care services, or it may be about someone working on behalf of the NHS. The NHS Scotland complaint procedure covers all of these possibilities.

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Call: 0141 201 4500
Address: Complaints Department, North East Sector Offices, Stobhill Hospital, 300 Balgrayhill Road, Glasgow G21 3UR

What do I include in the complaint?

When complaining, it is important to include the following:

  • The date that you are sending the letter;
  • A statement that you are raising a complaint;
  • Your full name and address, and your preferred method of contact;
  • The full name, address, and date of birth of the person affected if you are complaining on behalf of somebody else;
  • Detailed information about the complaint including what went wrong, when it happened, where it happened; and
  • How you would like the matter resolved.

Please be mindful that financial compensation and disciplinary action are not possible under the complaints procedure.

What happens when you make an NHS complaint? How will the complaint be dealt with?

The NHS Scotland complaints procedure has two stages.

  1. Early resolution
  2. Investigation

Stage 1: Early resolution

The complaints procedure is the same for GPs, opticians, dentist, hospitals, and any other NHS care provider. In all cases, the focus is on finding a solution quickly and locally if possible

Most complaints should be resolved within five working days of the date the complaint is received. In some circumstances, this can be up to ten working days. The NHS body should explain the outcome of the complaint to you and the reasons for resolving it in that way. The NHS body can do this in person or over the phone, rather than in writing.

If you are complaining about a service that has both a healthcare and a social care component, for example treatment in a care home, your complaint might be transferred to the social care complaints procedure. This is very similar to the NHS complaints procedure.

If the complaint cannot be resolved at stage one, or if you are unhappy with the outcome of stage one, your complaint should be moved on to stage two. You can ask for the complaint to be dealt with under stage two straight away if you think it is appropriate.

Stage 2: Investigation

Complaints might be handled at stage two because:

  • They are complex, serious, or high-risk issues and are not suitable for early resolution
  • Early resolution has failed
  • You were unhappy with the outcome of stage one and asked for an investigation.

You should receive a written acknowledgement within three working days that the complaint has been received at stage two. After this, you may be asked to take part in a meeting or phone call with NHS staff to discuss the complaint. This is not a formal legal meeting, and if you do not feel well enough to attend the meeting you can ask for another form of communication to be arranged. You should be able to take a representative or another person along for representation or support. It might be helpful for you or someone else to take notes of the meeting.

You should receive a written response within twenty working days. The response will tell you the result of the investigation and should:

  • Show that the complaint has been investigated and reply to all the points that were raised;
  • Offer an apology if things have gone wrong;
  • Explain what action has been taken or will be taken to stop what you complained about from happening again;
  • Explain why the NHS cannot do more about some parts of the complaint, if necessary;
  • Offer you a chance to talk to or meet a member of staff if there is anything in the letter you do not understand; and
  • Include information about taking the complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO) for an independent review if you are still unhappy.

What if I am unhappy with the outcome?

If your complaint is not resolved at stage two, you can refer the matter to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman or seek a judicial review.

Review by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman

You must send your complaint to the ombudsman within a year of finding out about the issue you are complaining about. If there are special circumstances, the ombudsman might extend the time limit.

Judicial Review

It might be possible to challenge the final decision about your complaint by getting a judicial review. Judicial review is a procedure which allows a court to review decisions made by public bodies. You will need to consult a solicitor if you plan to get a judicial review.

Legal Action

If you are considering taking legal action about your NHS complaint, you are best to consult a solicitor as soon as possible.    There are certain time limits you need to comply with and so seeking advice as early as possible is recommended.

How can our hospital complaint lawyers help?

Calio Claims has extensive experience in supporting clients who have suffered all types of hospital negligence, including severe injuries with life-altering consequences.

As experienced hospital complaint lawyers, our team understands the difficulties clients go through dealing with the physical and psychological pain as a result of negligence. We aim to remove the stress from making a hospital negligence claim. We will handle all the necessary steps, reassure you as your case proceeds and work with great effort to get you the compensation you deserve. 

Contact our hospital complaint negligence solicitors in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee today

If you have suffered an injury from hospital negligence, harm to your overall health or financial loss as a result of a visit to hospital, contact us to find out if you may be entitled to compensation.

We can offer to work on a no-win, no-fee basis and will discuss your fee options with you at your free initial consultation. 

Contact our specialist hospital negligence lawyers on 0800 988 8082 or complete our online enquiry form. We are here to help. 


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