Ask to meet with the Sister of the ward and/or the Ward Manager. You may be referred to PALs the Patient Liason Service but our advice is to insist on a meeting with the ward’s senior leadership team as well. PALs can either be very helpful or not very helpful. Who are PALs Click here
Before the meeting write down the main points of your complaint with times, dates and names. Take this to the meeting and at the start ask for a written response to your complaint and the minutes of the meeting. Find out why this is important
Be realistic and reasonable. At this point you have enough to worry about and the best ‘way forward’ – there’s one of those phrases – is say what the problem is and get it out in the open. Be clear that your complaint is very real to you and insist that it’s dealt with quickly.
Make sure that you understand what the staff are going to do to improve things. Expect change straight away. Don’t ‘wait’ for things to get better. A hospital has clear procedures and if the ward’s managers have said certain things will happen and they don’t ask why not and complain to them again.
What to do if you’re not happy with your person’s treatment
If you’re not happy with your person’s treatment ask to see their doctor. You should see the doctor at least once a week for a progress report anyway. Tell the doctor what is wrong and expect a response. In our experience lots of doctors don’t have the best people skills in the world but they are there to listen to your concerns. Use your list and ask for a written response. Ask about your person’s care plan and their care pathway/ pathway to care. Find out more about this It’s not usual to get an apology but do expect answers to your questions and an explanation of what is being done and why. If changes need to be made expect them to happen immediately. If they don’t ask to see the doctor again. What’s the difference between a doctor, a registrar and a consultant?
Do not under any circumstances accept that doctors are ‘too busy’ or ‘all in theatre’ or ‘not available’.
Stand your ground and insist that you will wait all day if you have to. They might just make you but be determined.
If you’re not getting anywhere
Make a fuss. It doesn’t come easily to most of us but especially in the early days you’ll be careering between hysteria and despair so use that energy to make your complaint.
If you’re still not happy with your person’s treatment ask to see their Consultant.
You usually don’t see the Consultant unless you’re on the ward for morning rounds and possibly not even then, but you can ask to meet with them.
It’s very important that you talk to the right Consultant.
If your person is still in ICU or Critical Care they will more than likely have a Consultant who is a Neurosurgeon. Once they’re out of what is referred to as the Acute stage they might have a new Consultant directly relating to the medical problems your person has IE Spinal. Find out more about this
Tell the Consultant what is wrong and that you’ve already raised your concerns with the doctor. Make sure you write down the doctor’s name and rank IE are they a Registrar? In our experience Consultants are either extremely friendly and helpful or have even worse people skills than doctors but they are there to listen to your concerns and they have a duty to respond.
Be clear about any changes they propose. Make sure you understand what will happen from that moment on.
Ask for minutes of the meeting and any follow up letters to your GP.
Don’t be overwhelmed if they talk in NHS-speak and don’t be over-awed by other staff’s behaviour when they’re around. Consultants are very important people in a hospital and carry a lot of clout, they also command a certain presence on a ward… but they’re there to help you so ask them to be plain speaking and clear about what they intend to do.
If you’re not happy about anything else it’s another meeting with the Sister and/or Ward Manager.
You might also be referred to an Advanced Practitioner Nurse. Who is this?
At the second meeting say that you’re still not happy and what was agreed hasn’t happened and/or improved.
Tell them that you want your complaint to go to the Matron and/or the most senior Ward Manager.
Write everything down, ask for a record of the meeting and start keeping notes.
Be prepared for the next meeting because you will need dates, times and names.
At this stage you can take advice from Citizen’s Advice Bureau and if you don’t already have one ask to be put in touch with a social worker.
The next meeting with the Matron and/or Senior Ward Manager might also include a Lead in the Clinical Department IE Neurosciences.
A Lead is simply another word for senior manager. This is where you will need to present your complaint in detail.
We recommend that you also write a letter so that they are clear about your continued concerns.
Expect this level of management to affect swift changes and respond immediately. They may not agree with your complaint but they should deal with it.
If possible have support from PALs, the CAB and/ or a social worker at the meeting.
Be clear about their response and what they say they’re going to do.
Ask for minutes of the meeting and copies of any letters.
Request a written response.
If you’re still not getting anywhere
Now is the time to ask that your complaint be dealt with through the hospital’s formal procedures and complaints process. It might also be the point that you get legal advice.
Click here to find out why you might need a solicitor
Every hospital and Trust has its own way of handling complaints although they are all supposed to conform to standards set out by the Government and the Care Quality Commission. Find out more about this
Who are the CQC?
Once you’re going down the path of making a formal complaint there are things you need to do.
Click here to find out more
“Making a complaint was a nightmare, I kept being told to go to the wrong person and PALs were very nice but couldn’t do much. In the end I went on the net and found out how to make a complaint. I realised I’d been doing it all wrong and that the hospital should have been much more help. I also went to the CAB, they’ve been really good and I finally feel as though I’m getting somewhere” Anon
At the end of the day few of us like to complain but if something’s wrong it could be the difference between life and death if you don’t.