Former MP Dr Richard Taylor, co-founder of  the National Health Action Party, calls for urgent and complete reform of the NHS Complaints Process.

dr richard taylorHe describes it as toothless and unhelpful from the patients’ or their relatives’ points of view. An impartial, independent opinion is not available until the complaint is passed to the Ombudsman.

When he was a medically qualified MP, assisting constituents with complaints, on several occasions the only ‘independent’ experts employed appeared to be on the side of the NHS and not really independent. They were defensive and expert at rubbishing the complaint or justifying the action, or lack of action taken, that led to the complaint.

In order to make effective complaints, patients need expert, independent help made easily and generally available early in the process and long before legal action is considered. Legal action must always be the last resort.

The Independent Health and Disability Commissioner of New Zealand, with offices in all major towns, is an example of an independent, accessible official to whom patients, relatives and staff can raise complaints and concerns with preservation of anonymity if desired. The Commissioner has the knowledge and ability to cope with these or to pass them on to the highest authority when appropriate.

Before Community Health Councils were abolished they had the ability to listen to complaints and then direct access to local NHS authorities or even the Health Secretary if necessary. There has been no adequate replacement for this vital service. Health Watch appears to be toothless in this respect.

An appropriate reform of the Complaints Process could fill this gap. Dr Taylor adds:

“Even more important is the need to avoid complaints. This can be achieved by improving communication between NHS staff and their patients. With open, comprehensible information-sharing and discussion most complaints can be avoided before they develop. As always full, open communication between patients and staff is vital”.


Our nearest hospital is Carlisle which is nearly bankrupt having been involved in what I think was called PFI, ie private funding.

The car parking there is so bad that one has to take a driver so one can go to the appointment whilst the driver waits to park the car. I am told many people give up and go home missing the appointment, thereby wasting time and costing money.