Complaint against: North Wales Health Authority - Summary
Health Service Ombudsman for Wales
Investigations about aspects of the NHS complaints procedure
Case No. W.65/98-99
Health Authority's operation of complaints procedures
Possibility of legal action by complainant; whether it was appropriate to convene an independent review panel.
North Wales Health Authority.
Summary of case
In August 1998 Dr X, a GP who was the subject of a complaint by a member of the public, was asked to attend an independent review panel set up by the Health Authority. Dr X complained to the Ombudsman that it was inappropriate for the Health Authority to continue dealing with the matter under the NHS complaints procedure because the man had made it clear that it was his firm intention to pursue legal action against him.
The Ombudsman agreed with Dr X that the Secretary of State's Directions on dealing with complaints about family health service practitioners require consideration of the complaint to cease if a complainant intends to pursue a remedy by way of proceedings in a court of law. However, he did not agree that it could accurately be said that that was the man's intention in this case. In correspondence with Dr X and the Health Authority, the man had said only that he would pursue his complaint in any legal manner he saw fit. The Ombudsman concluded that that did not amount to a stated and current intention to commence legal proceedings. Indeed, in a letter to the Health Authority shortly after he had requested an independent review panel the man said that he was not pursuing legal action, although he reserved the right to do so. The Ombudsman was satisfied that the Health Authority's convener had taken the correct decision in deciding to continue the complaints procedure; and he did not uphold the GP's complaint.
The Health Authority said that on receipt of the Ombudsman's report they would make arrangements for the independent review panel, which had been postponed pending his investigation of Dr X's complaint, to proceed.