How to complain
If you can’t resolve the issue by discussing it with your private medical or dental treatment consultant in person, ask for a copy of the hospital’s complaints procedure. Write directly to the person in charge of complaints with the following details:
- A statement of your complaint, giving details of when and where it happened, and the names and job titles of the staff involved
- Details of any verbal complaint you have already made, and the outcome
- Questions you would like answered
- Details of what you would like to happen, such as an explanation or compensation
- A request that you would like your complaint investigated
There is no standard complaints procedure enforced among private hospitals, so it is up to the hospital to follow its own code of practice. However, 9 out of 10 hospitals choose to follow a standard code created by the Independent Healthcare Forum. If you’re dealing with one of these hospitals, you can expect the following response.
- A written acknowledgement of your complaint within 7 working days
- A full response, possibly after an investigation, after 5 weeks
- An explanation of what happened and, if your complaint was upheld, an apology and details of how the situation will be avoided in future
- A compensation if you experienced disappointment, annoyance or inconvenience
If you are not happy with the hospital’s response, you can request an internal appeal where a senior member of staff will review your complaint.
If, after the review, you are still not satisfied you can ask for the Independent Healthcare Forums’ external adjudication panel to look into your case. You must do this within a month of your appeal. The panel will reply with a written decision within 2 months. If your complaint is upheld, the panel can order the hospital to pay you compensation or to take particular action.
If you are still not happy with the result, you may pursue the complaint by contacting the following organisations:
Healthcare Commission – is the independent watchdog for healthcare in the UK. It has a review procedure for unresolved complaints about private treatment, including care paid for by the NHS. However, it has no remit to help get your money back after poor private treatment.
Local health authority – private hospitals have to register with local health authorities, which inspect them twice a year. This gives them some power to investigate complaints.
Commission for Social Care Inspection – is the regulator for the care home and social care sector. It can investigate your private treatment complaint and take action.
Professional healthcare bodies – there are separate regulators to contact depending on the nature of the healthcare professional:
Private health insurer – you can take your complaint to your insurance provider. If it can’t provide a satisfactory resolution, you should take your case to the Financial Ombudsman, which resolves disputes between financial service providers and their customers.