What to do when treatment goes wrong

2nd July 2019

What to do when treatment goes wrong

This year's Health Information Week focuses on key themes designed to promote high quality information for patients and the public.  In recent times there have been a wealth of government campaigns to raise awareness of public health issues, ranging from the ‘Change 4 Life’ campaign to promoting the importance of cervical smear testing. However, information about what to do when medical treatment goes wrong is not as readily available, often causing patients to feel overwhelmed and uncertain. JENNY TETLOW, a trainee in the Higgs & Sons Clinical Negligence team, explores the options available to patients who wish to investigate the treatment they have received.


"I would like to make a complaint about the treatment I have received. What is the most effective way of doing this?"

There are a couple of options available to patients who would like to make a complaint about NHS treatment. The Patients Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is an NHS body created to provide advice and support to patients, relatives and carers. PALS is often the first port of call for patients who want to express concerns over treatment received. It can assist in resolving problems patients have encountered by liaising with relevant staff but can also signpost and advise on the NHS Complaints Procedure.

If a patient has exhausted options available to them under PALS and is still unsatisfied with the outcome, they can make a complaint under the NHS Complaints Procedure. Complaints are directed to the appropriate Hospital Trust, or the Practice Manager if the complaint relates to a GP, dentist or pharmacist. Clear explanations of the individual’s complaint will ensure appropriate investigation and will encourage a focused response. 

It is recommended that patients always request a written response to their complaint, even if they are also offered a meeting to discuss their concerns. This is because conversations are open to interpretation, particularly where the subject matter is so emotive. A written response will also assist if a patient later decides they would like to investigate a claim for compensation. 

Patients who have paid for treatment privately or used medical insurance cannot follow the NHS Complaints Procedure. Instead, private medical providers will have their own complaints procedure.



"I would like to access my medical records. Am I entitled to do this, and how do I go about it?"

Yes; all patients are entitled by law to access a full copy of their medical records whether they be GP, hospital or dental. Before the GDPR Regulations came into force, health providers were permitted to charge a fee for providing copy records. Happily, medical providers are now required to provide patient records for free.

If you have concerns regarding the medical treatment you have received, a Higgs & Sons Solicitor can apply for your records free of charge. Reviewing a patient's medical records is the most effective way of assessing whether issues arising from treatment should be investigated further with a view to obtaining compensation.


"What next?"

If after receiving a response the patient remains unsatisfied and believes the treatment they have received has negatively affected their health, they may want to contact a member of the Higgs & Sons Clinical Negligence team. A Solicitor can discuss the treatment received, review letters of complaint and corresponding responses and request and review medical records on behalf of the patient. It may be that a Solicitor can offer a ‘no win, no fee’ agreement to enable the patient to pursue a claim for financial compensation.


  • If you or a loved one has received negligent medical treatment and would benefit from expert guidance, please contact a member of the Higgs & Sons Clinical Negligence team on 0345 111 5050.  Jenny Tetlow can be reached on 01384 327238 or at jenny.tetlow@higgsandsons.co.uk


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