I’m quite good at complaining when I receive bad service.. which is, unfortunately, more often than I would like to admit with my NHS treatment.
I’m really grateful for the NHS and I wouldn’t like to even imagine how much my medical treatment would have cost me so far if I lived somewhere like the USA. This doesn’t mean I haven’t received some awful care at times.
I speak to people all the time about how to get to where they want to be in the NHS system, or when they’re not happy with the treatment they’re receiving from their doctor or hospital. I thought I would cover a few questions I hear often about either asking for better treatment, or making complaints about medical treatment, when you are not happy with the service or care you have received.
“How do I ask for a second opinion?”
This depends on where you are in your journey, but wherever you are up to, whether you’re having investigations, have just received a diagnosis, or you’re under going treatment, you need to speak up. You just need to vocalise that you’d like a second opinion. You may find this easier to do if you can evidence why you think this would be a good idea. All doctors in the UK must respect a patient’s right to a second opinion.
You may want to see a different GP at your local practice. This can be arranged by speaking to your doctor, or a receptionist; whichever you are most comfortable with on the day. You could also speak to the practice manager.
If you’ve been referred out of your GP practice on to a consultant and you want to request a second opinion, speak to your GP and they should be able to refer you somewhere else, or signpost what are the next best steps you should take.
Be aware that if you ask for a second opinion further down the line, this may delay treatment, as you will probably need a full re-assessment by a different consultant, so if you were on the waiting list for surgery, you may end up at the back of the queue again. However, this shouldn’t stop you asking for a second opinion if you feel you need one. Don’t rush into a treatment you’re not entirely sure about, just because you don’t want to wait again.
“Can I ask to be referred to a specific clinic?”
In the UK, we have patient choice under the NHS. This means that a patient can choose where they want to be seen, as long as the hospital offers the service you need. Your GP will normally refer you through an e-referral service, which will usually offer you the hospitals with the best availability for the closest appointment.
If you are referred somewhere in an emergency, patient choice does not apply.
“Can I ask to try a different medication than my doctor has put me on?”
Yes. You can get advice on different medication options for trigeminal neuralgia, which are then to be discussed with your doctor, by joining the TNA UK. It’s not a good idea to go in asking for a new medication without doing your research on what this would mean for you, in terms of side effects and interactions with other medications, whether that means speaking to the TNA UK, or your specialist consultant, who can ask your GP to change your medication.
Some people settle well on the first medication they are prescribed, but many need to adjust dosage, or change medication completely.
“How do I make a complaint at my doctors surgery?”
To make a complaint at your GP practice, you need to ask the receptionist for the complaints procedure, or ask to speak to the practice manager.
“What do I do if I’m not happy with my treatment at the hospital?”
Your first point of call should be to contact your hospital’s local PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service). You can read more about this service on the NHS website, by clicking here. Every hospital should have a PALS and they can usually be contacted by phone, or email. Some even have an office you can go into, but you may need to make an appointment.
You don’t have to use them for official complaints. You can use them for things that can be resolved without a complaint in the first instance, for example, if you have an usually long wait for results.
They can also help if you need to make an official complaint.
“What do I say when I make a complaint about my medical treatment?”
Take your emotions out of it and instead focus on facts, such as appointment dates, timescales and information from appointments. I know it’s hard to not tell someone how upset you are, but try to confine this to the end of your complaint and remember that the person dealing with your complaint probably hasn’t spoken to you before and needs some help piecing the story together in order to help you.
If you have a question that hasn’t been covered in this blog post, please drop me a comment below and I’ll do my best to help you!
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