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NHS Complaints Procedure
The NHS has a complaints procedure which anyone who is receiving, or has received NHS treatment or services can use. If you are unable to complain yourself then someone else, usually a relative or close friend can complain on your behalf.

The procedure works the same whichever part of the NHS you wish to complain about.

Time Limits
It is important that you make your complaint as soon as possible after the event you wish to complain about has occurred. Usually the NHS will only investigate complaints that are made within six months of the event - or within six months of you realising that you have something to complain about as long as this is not more than 12 months after the event itself. These time limits can be waived if there is good reason to do so.

Local Resolution of complaints
The NHS complaints procedure provides for Local Resolution as a first step. All NHS Trusts and health authorities, GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists have complaints procedures in place and NHS Trusts and health authorities will also have complaints managers.

You can try to resolve your problem informally first by talking to someone close to the cause of your complaint - a doctor, nurse, receptionist, or practice manager, for example.

If informal attempts do not work or you would prefer to talk to someone who is not involved in your care, you can telephone or write to the appropriate complaints manager.

If your complaint is about a GP, family dentist, pharmacist or optician you can ask a staff member for details of the complaints procedure. You may wish to use this procedure before contacting the complaints manager at your local health authority.

The telephone number of your locl health authority will be in the phone book.

The Patients Charter entitles you to have a full written reply from the chief executive to any written complaint against a trust or health authority. The NHS tries to do this within four weeks and should inform you of progress if this is not possible.

Independent Review
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of Local Resolution then you can ask the trust - or health authority - to consider taking your complaint to Independent Review.

You should do this within four weeks of the result of the Local Resolution.

You will be asked to explain in writing why you are dissatisfied with the result. A specially trained member of the trust or health authority will then decide whether there should be an independent review of your complaint by a special panel. You will be informed of the decision in writing. If he decides to set up a panel, you will be told what will be investigated.

The panel has three members and will re-examine the facts, conduct interviews and take any specialist advice needed. It will then prepare a report together with its conclusions and recommendations. You will be given a copy of this and will also be informed of any action being taken.

Health Service Commissioner Ombudsman
If you are still unhappy with the result you can ask the Health Service Commissioner Ombudsman - to investigate your case. The Ombudsman will not usually look at matters that have not been through the NHS complaints procedure.

The Health Service Ombudsman for England
Millbank Tower
Tel: 020 7276 3000


The Welsh Health Services Ombudsman can be contacted at:

Fifth Floor, Capital Tower
Greyfriars Road
CF10 3AG
Tel: 01222 394621



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