Being let down by a healthcare professional can bring devastating consequences to you and your family. Sadly, medical accidents and injuries are on the increase and whilst we are all very proud of our NHS, sometimes things go wrong. It can be hard to know who to speak to, what questions to ask or where to turn when you have been a victim of medical negligence.
What is medical negligence?
If you have been injured or harmed by a GP, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, paramedic, consultant or private clinician, then it is possible you have been a victim of medical negligence. Regardless whether you were a private or NHS patient, there is a certain standard of care expected of medical professionals. If they fall below this standard, they are likely to be negligent.
Who should I speak to first?
If you feel you have suffered medical negligence, the most important thing is to raise the issue with the person treating you. Your health is the number one priority. It is perfectly acceptable to ask for a second opinion if you want it and your doctor or consultant should be happy to assist you.
What if I’m unhappy with the response of my GP / Consultant?
If you’ve spoken to the person treating you and you’re still unhappy, you should make a written complaint. For a GP, you should forward your complaint to the GP surgery’s practice manager and, in the case of NHS staff, you should make a complaint to the complaints department of the relevant NHS trust or Hospital.
How do I complain?
Always make your complaint in writing, by email or recorded post so you can prove delivery; you should never just telephone someone. You can find copies of the complaints process on the organisation’s website. If you’re unsure, ring them and ask them to send it to you. State in your letter that you are prepared to allow 14 days for an acknowledgement and 40 days for them to send you a response.
What do I say?
Try and step back from what has happened. Be clear but, more importantly, be precise. Often complaints are about a number of things so make a list of all your complaints, putting them in order of importance. The simpler and clearer you make your complaint the harder it will be for any professional to avoid answering your grievance.
But don’t they “all stick together”?
No! Every medical healthcare professional has an obligation to inform you of any issues that have occurred whilst dealing with you. This is known as their “Duty of Candour”. There are serious consequences if a medical professional does not offer you a full explanation of what has occurred. Any complaint letter you send should always ask them to confirm whether they have complied with their duty of candour.
What if I am unhappy with the response?
If you are dissatisfied with the response to your complaint, then you should pursue a complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. They will investigate the substance of your complaint and the way it has been dealt with.
Will I be treated differently if I complain?
Many people worry about this. You should not be treated differently and if you are, that would also form part of your complaint!
When should I involve a solicitor?
You should discuss things early with a solicitor; many offer an initial free 30 minute consultation and can offer a no win no fee agreement.
To speak to an experienced medical negligence solicitor, call Farleys Solicitors on 0845 287 0939 or email us.