Top Tips: Complaints

Many people are ‘afraid’ to complain about poor service received, because they feel that this may affect other services they may receive in the future, or damage relations with the service provider.  There is no evidence that this is the case.  Others are confused by the system, and are unsure of how to go about making a formal complaint.

We believe that making a complaint should be a simple process. Here are some ‘top tips’ to help you along the way.

  • When complaining always do it in writing

The best way is to write a letter. Complaints made via a phone call can get lost, and those sent via email may be blocked by spam filters. Service providers have a duty to respond to written complaints.  You can always copy Healthwatch in to your correspondence.

  • Address your complaint to the appropriate person

If you have a complaint about your GP write directly to the practice manager — do not write to the receptionist. If it is a complaint about hospital services go through the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) for that hospital. They are the entry point into the hospital system and should investigate your complaint. General service complaints can be directed to your local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) who commission some local services. If you are unsure who to complain to contact your Healthwatch team.

  • Keep your initial complaint simple

Lay out key dates, times, people in a clear fashion.  The easier your complaint is to read and understand, the better chance you have of receiving a reply that addresses the whole complaint.

  • Keep a copy of any correspondence that you send and receive

If you are involved in any discussions or phone calls always keep notes, especially any agreed actions. You can then refer back to these if you need to.

  • Manage your expectations

Although you may wish for a certain outcome from complaining, remember that there is a limit to what a service provider can achieve.  Raising awareness of a service quality issue may lead to improvements in the future delivery, but reducing the waiting time for an operation may not be possible.

You may not agree with the response that you receive but at the very least feel that you have been listened to and understood. If you feel that you have not been listened to, or that your complaint has not been addressed, or that the wrong information has been given to you, then take it to a higher authority with responsibility for that service such as the Health Ombudsman, General Dental Council etc.