The Truth About NHS Complaints & The Duty Of Candour

“I just wanted them to say sorry”

In our Medical Negligence and Inquest team, we hear this from so many people that contact us for advice. You are unhappy with your medical care or treatment, and you made a formal complaint to the healthcare provider. The response you received was less than satisfactory and you decide to seek legal advice.

So we listen to you. We let you tell us your story, we hear what you went through, how it affected you and your family and we ask how you are coping now. We hear you say, “I just wanted them to say sorry.” Instead, what you received in response to your formal complaint to the NHS was a letter glossing straight over your main concerns and simply answering what the hospital wanted to answer, rather than what you asked. So you sent another letter, and then another one, stressing that they had not addressed your concerns properly, but you receive very little honest acknowledgement of the failings in your care.

You did not even receive a proper explanation, let alone an apology, and so you came to us for help. You have been injured by substandard care which is further aggrieved by the dismal and protracted complaints process and you want answers and compensation. You tell us that if the hospital had just apologised, you would not be taking this any further, and we believe you because so many of you tell us the same thing. We have been in your shoes and we understand where you are coming from, and what you now need to get closure on the trauma that you have suffered.

NHS not observing Duty of Candour

We read your complaint response letters and we agree that often these fall well below what we should all be entitled to receive. There is a duty of candour on the NHS to provide open and honest information following complaints investigations; healthcare providers need to be transparent, demonstrate lessons learnt and that concerns are being heard and acted upon. And yet these still do not appear to be forthcoming.

Healthwatch, the independent national champion for people using health and social care services, says:

“Complaints are a valuable tool which help hospitals spot and tackle issues quickly. They should not be seen by hospitals as something to ‘be managed’, but as an opportunity to learn and improve. To have a complaints system that works, the NHS must give patients the confidence to speak up by showing them how their views are heard and acted upon.”

We hear from you that this just isn’t happening and that NHS Trusts are not always observing their duty of candour. You feel that you are left with no choice but to investigate further what happened to you and you are entitled to do this. You feel or you are told that you have reached the end of the road with the complaints process and so you contact us for advice on what you can do next.

How we can help

NHS not observing Duty of CandourIf you have made a complaint about your healthcare, and are not sure what to do next, speak to us. Tell us your story and we can help you get the answers you deserve, even if you have received a complaint response that denies any shortcomings in your care. We can help with further complaint letters, direct you to the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman, if appropriate, and advise you if you are entitled to seek compensation for your injuries.

Baishali Clayton is an Associate in our expert Medical Negligence and Inquest team.

If you have any questions in relation to the subjects discussed in this article, then please get in touch with Baishali or another member of the team in Derby, Leicester or Nottingham on 0800 024 1976 or via our online form.