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Private health complaints

Who are covered?

  • Any private doctor
  • Private dentists
  • Private chiropodists, physiotherapists, acupuncturists, podiatrists
  • Beauty therapists
  • Private nursing or care homes
  • All private hospitals

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Who should I complain to?

If you are unhappy with treatment that has been provided to you by a private medical professional or at a private nursing home, care home, clinic or hospital, then there are a number of ways you can make a complaint:

  • Discuss your concerns with the medical professional concerned or to their manager
  • Make a formal written complaint to the medical professional, nursing home, care home, clinic or hospital

Most private healthcare providers will have their own complaints procedure. You can usually find their complaints procedure on their website or you can contact the organisation directly and speak to a member of staff, manager or the complaints department (if they have one) to ask for the details of their complaints procedure and then follow the necessary steps. It is usual to find that the complaint procedure is quite similar to the NHS complaint procedure.

If you have serious concerns about an individual medical professional’s abilities, then you should make a complaint to their professional regulatory body.

You can find out the details of the professional’s regulatory body by either checking their letterhead or offices for information or researching online.

Examples are:

  • For doctors General Medical Council
  • For nurses and midwives Nursing and Midwifery Council
  • For dentists General Dental Council
  • For chiropractors General Chiropractor Council

If you would like some guidance as to what to include in your letter of complaint then please visit the General Medical Council’s website: Making a complaint against a doctor

You should write to the regulatory body setting out your concerns about the medical professional.

The regulatory body will investigate your concerns and will decide whether the medical professional is still fit to practice. After an investigation, they may stop them from practising or they may allow them to continue to work with restrictions or conditions attached.

What happens next with my complaint letter?

If you send a complaint letter to a medical professional, nursing home, care home, clinic or hospital, then there are a number of different outcomes that can occur:

If they are a member of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service (they should display the logo below at their premises or on their letterhead), then their code of practice states that they are required to investigate your complaint and provide you with a full response.

There are three stages to the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service's complaints code of practice; local resolution (first stage), complaint review (second stage) and independent external adjudication (third stage).

The first stage is when you send your initial letter of complaint to the medical professional involved and their manager at the nursing home, care home, clinic or hospital etc. According to the code of practice, you should receive an acknowledgement of your complaint within 2 working days and a full response within 20 working days.

If you are dissatisfied with the response (or you do not receive a response), then you can request a complaint review (second stage) by writing to the designated senior officer, usually the chief executive or managing director of the organisation, within 20 days of receiving the initial response (or if 20 working days have passed and you have not received a response). Your complaint will then be considered by the senior officer and they will provide their views upon the response (of lack of it).

If you remain dissatisfied following the senior officer’s response, then should then write to the independent external adjudication secretariat (third stage) for a review within 25 days of receiving the response (contact details provided below). An adjudicator will make a decision as to whether it is appropriate to review your complaint and, if so, you will be notified of the outcome of this review within 60 days.

  • A private doctor may be a member of the Independent Doctors Federation. If so, they have a similar code of practice to the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service set out above.
  • If the medical professional, nursing home, care home, clinic or hospital is not a member of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service and they do not respond to your complaint, or you are dissatisfied with their response, then you can contact the Quality Care Commission.

The Quality Care Commission will not be able to consider the details of your individual complaint or the organisation's response, but they will take account of the information that you have provided and will consider if the organisation has committed any breaches under any of the relevant regulations. If they have, then the Quality Care Commission are required to take action to bring about improvements.

You may therefore only wish to take this step, if you would like the organisation to improve their service and/or ensure that other patients receive a better standard of care in the future.

If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of your complaint and wish to seek legal advice, then call our specialist clinical negligence solicitors on 01616 966 229 or complete our online enquiry form and a member of the team will contact you directly.

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