NHS Complaints Procedure
and PALS - Been Let Down?

NHS Complaints Procedure and PALS

I understand the NHS has a Complaints Procedure. Should I be concerned the Complaints Service will be biased towards its own staff and medical practitioners?

The NHS complaints procedure Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) exists to investigate complaints made by patients. PALS exists in all NHS trusts to ensure any complaints of poor treatment are managed and dealt with. This includes keeping dissatisfied patients up to date with proceedings, issuing an apology and an explanation of what happened in their case, and ultimately ensuring such a lapse does not reoccur.

The complaints procedure charter does not allow the medical practitioner to be disciplined or dismissed, however, it may result in recommendations being made to the medical practitioner on how they can improve their skills, or patient care etc. PALS will consider the processes in place for providing care and treatment, and if poor practice is identified (e.g. lack of equipment, inadequate training, or poor communication methods) which is responsible for the medical practitioner’s error, PALS may intervene and recommend how the problems can be avoided.

There have been instances of a PALS investigation discovering fundamental errors in NHS practice and procedure, which has led to a wider investigation. Such investigations have, in turn, led to a medical practitioner being brought before his/her regulatory body, such as the General Medical Council GMC or Nursing and Midwifery Council, for breach of conduct.

The main aims of the PALS procedure is to provide:

  • Confidential advice and support to patients, families and their carers;
  • Information on the NHS and health related matters;
  • Confidential assistance in resolving problems and concerns quickly;
  • Information on and how to get more involved in their own healthcare;
  • A focal point for feedback from patients to inform service departments;
  • An early warning system for NHS trusts, Primary care trusts and patient and Public Involvement forums by monitoring trends and gaps in services and reporting these to the trust management for action;

The PALS complaints procedure does not award financial compensation for your injuries. You should be aware that if you decide to instigate a medical negligence claim, you cannot request that PALS investigate a complaint.

It is advisable to consider submitting a complaint to PALS before you pursue a medical negligence claim however it is our view that this should be done with the assistance of your legal advisor so that you are confident that you do not take any steps that may prejudice any claim for compensation. Whilst we don’t act in a complaints forum on behalf of our clients, as part of our service, we can work with you when you lodge any complaint to ensure your interests are protected. The outcome of the investigation may result in you finding out about what happened and whether anyone was at fault for causing your injuries. Once the investigation has been completed, you can then proceed with a medical negligence claim.


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