Introduction by the Health Service Ombudsman
Many of the complaints I receive are wholly, or in part, about the operation of the NHS complaints procedure. The present procedure was introduced in April 1996. Sometimes I find that the health body concerned has not acted in accordance with the guidance and statutory directions governing the procedure. If so, I draw attention to the shortcomings either in the reports of my investigations, or by writing to the body if it appears that the complaint can best be resolved by means short of a full investigation. Sometimes the circumstances of the complaint are not specifically addressed by the guidance or the directions; sometimes the circumstances expose difficulties in their interpretation. I have recently investigated two such cases. Because of their technical interest to those dealing with complaints within the NHS, I have decided to publish my reports on these cases in this one volume, to be laid before each House of Parliament, in accordance with section 14(4)(b) of the Health Service Commissioners Act 1993 (as amended).
The first case concerns a complaint by a general practitioner (GP), who himself was the subject of a complaint which was being dealt with under the NHS complaints procedure. The GP considered that he had grounds for believing that the complainant was intent on taking legal action against him and that, because of that, the complaints process should cease. I did not agree that the complainant's communications had indicated a stated and current intention to commence legal proceedings; and I did not uphold the complaint.
The second case concerns the manner in which a GP wrote, to a woman who had complained about her, after an independent review panel had completed their consideration of the complaint. I upheld that complaint and drew the attention of the health departments to an apparent anomaly in the statutory directions which my investigation revealed.
Summaries of these cases are provided as is the full text of my investigation reports; but the names of the complainants and the GPs have been removed in order to preserve confidentiality.
M S BUCKLEY
Health Service Commissioner for Wales