PRESS RELEASE: Hitting ‘pause’ on complaints to get behind the NHS

The NHS announced this week that the complaints process will need to be deprioritised to allow front-line workers to focus on saving lives during the COVID-19 emergency. Hospitals have asked patients and families to delay making complaints until the situation has stabilised.  

Commenting on the announcement Matthew Parris, Director of Healthwatch Camden, said: 
“This is an unprecedented time for the NHS and social care workforce who are working under tremendous pressure. We all need to get behind front-line staff at during this COVID-19 emergency. A complaints process is just one way in which Hospitals gather feedback and respond to concerns. These services can, and no doubt will, continue to listen and respond to patients and families in many other ways.” 

All local Hospitals operate Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) which are there to support patients and families who are receiving treatment. This can include handling any concerns with treatment and care. These services continue to operate in the normal way. 

Mr Parris added: 
“People must still speak up if they see something that’s not right. You can share concerns with Healthwatch Camden, anonymously, if you’re not comfortable talking to people involved in your care.” 

Healthwatch Camden is encouraging people to document their concerns in detail now, so that learning is not lost and to ensure that services can adequately respond at a future date. They recommend recording the date/time, what happened and the names of any wards, departments or staff involved. The Royal Free Hospital has warned of a possible deterioration in its ability to respond in a timely manner to complaints and UCLH is no longer accepting postal complaints

According to NHS Complaints Regulations, a complaint can be submitted up to 12 months from the incident in question and some Hospitals have indicated that they may accept complaints beyond this timeframe. 

Mr Parris concluded by saying: 
“We need to make sure that if Hospitals pause complaints processes now, that learning is not lost and that all people who wish to make a complaint can make a complaint in due course. We will work with NHS services in Camden to make sure this happens.” 
“Healthwatch will also, independently, document people’s experience during the COVID-19 emergency in the coming weeks and months in order to help services learn from and respond to any concerns.” 
“But we also want to document and publicly share more praise for front-line staff during a challenging time. If you’ve got a story about great care, or someone in the NHS that needs some recognition, please get in touch. And, get outside tonight to clap for our carers at 8pm to show your support.” 

You can share your experience with Healthwatch Camden by visiting For up to date information on complaint processes during the COVID-19 emergency visit the website of your Hospital.  
Notes to editors 
1. Healthwatch is the independent watchdog created to gather and represent the views of the public. Healthwatch plays a role at both national and local level to ensure that the views of service users and others are taken into account. 
 2. Healthwatch Camden provides a collective voice for health and social care users in Camden. 
 3. Healthwatch Camden has a seat on the Camden Health and Wellbeing Board and can alert Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to concerns about services. 
 4. Local Healthwatch functions and powers are set out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. 
 5. For more information contact: 07939 315580, email: 

Published 3rd April 2020.