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Most medical care and treatment goes well, but things occasionally go wrong, and patients may want to complain. Every NHS organisation has a complaints procedure. To find out about it, ask a member of staff, look on the hospital or trust's website, or contact the complaints department for more information. Each trust will have a slightly different policy. This access to people in the NHS is also for patients to make positive comments on the care and services that you've received. These comments are just as important because they tell NHS organisations which factors are contributing to a good experience for patients.
If a patient is not happy with the care or treatment they received or have been refused treatment for a condition, they have the right to complain, have their complaint investigated, and be given a full and prompt reply. The NHS Constitution explains their rights when it comes to making a complaint. Patients have the right to have their complaint dealt with efficiently, and properly investigated, know the outcome of any investigation into their complaint, take their complaint to the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if they are not satisfied with the way the NHS has dealt with the complaint, make a claim for judicial review if they think the have been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body, and receive compensation if they have been harmed.
They can complain either to the service that they are unhappy with, or can complain to their local primary care trust (PCT) that commissioned the service. They should complain as soon as possible. Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of the date of the event that they are complaining about, or as soon as the matter first came to their attention. The time limit can sometimes be extended (so long as it's still possible to investigate the complaint). An extension might be possible, such as in situations where it would have been difficult for them to complain earlier, for example, when they were grieving or undergoing trauma.
Since April 2009, the NHS has run a simple complaints process, which has two stages. Patients can ask a hospital or trust for a copy of its complaints procedure, which will explain how to proceed. Their first step will normally be to raise the matter with the practitioner, e.g. the nurse or doctor concerned, or with their organisation, which will have a complaints manager. Alternatively, if they prefer, they can raise the matter with their local primary care trust. This is called local resolution, and most cases are resolved at this stage.
If they are still unhappy, they can refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who is independent of the NHS and government.