Making a Complaint Against a Health Professional

Healthcare Complaint

If you believe you received substandard medical treatment, you may wish to make an official complaint. The aim of this article is to provide you with a brief summary of the options open to you. 

Healthcare complaint

Individual Hospital Complaints Procedure

Healthcare complaint

If you are concerned about the treatment you received in a public or private hospital in Ireland, the first option open to you is to make an official complaint via the hospital’s own complaint procedure. The vast majority of Hospitals will have a designed person called a “Complaints Officer” who will handle your complaint. You can find out the contact details for the Complaints Officer through the hospital’s main phone number. Your complaint can be made  orally or in writing but this writer would strongly recommend putting your complaint in writing to avoid any information being lost in translation. 

The effectiveness of a Hospital’s Complaints Procedure is hugely varied as it depends on the willingness of the hospital staff to engage with the process. 

Complaint to GP Practice

If you are concerned about the treatment you received from your GP (either attending as public patient or privately) you can make a formal complaint to the GP Practice directly. Similarly to the Hospital Complaints Procedure, the effectiveness of such a complaint will depend largely on the GP’s willingness to engage with you and the complaint you have made.

Complaint Against the Health Service Executive

If you are concerned about the treatment you received by a HSE health service you can make a complaint against the HSE. 

You have 12 months from the date of the incident you are complaining of to make a complaint. The 12 month time period can also run from the date you became aware of the alleged wrong committed against you (date of knowledge). The 12 month time period can also be extended by the HSE Complaints Officer if there are special circumstances making it appropriate to depart from the strict 12 month timeframe. 

There are certain circumstances which prohibit you from making a HSE complaint. For the purpose of potential medical negligence, these are as follows: 

  1. A matter that is or has been the subject of legal proceedings; 
  2. A matter relating solely to the exercise of clinical judgement;
  3. A matter that has been brought before any other complaints procedure. 

Further, the HSE Complaints Officer has discretion not to investigate a complaint if he/she believes it is frivolous or has already been resolved. 

Medical Council Complaint

The Medical Council is an organisation in Ireland responsible for regulating doctors. It’s role is to protect the public by promoting and ensuring the highest standard amongst doctors. As part of this role, the Medical Council handles complaints regarding a doctor’s fitness to practise medicine. The Medical Council acts in the public interest and can impose restrictions on a doctor’s registration which would restrict or remove their right to practise medicine in Ireland. The Medical Council can only investigate complaints about individual doctors and not complaints regarding Hospitals, Clinics, Nurses etc.  

The Medical Council can only take action where complaints are deemed to be of a serious nature. In respect of potential medical negligence, you can only make a complaint on the following grounds: 

  1. Professional Misconduct (Conduct that experienced, competent and reputable doctors consider disgraceful or dishonourable; conduct that falls short of the standards of conduct expected of doctors). 
  2. Poor Professional Performance (a failure by the doctor to meet the standards of competence reasonably expected of them). 

You just demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the doctor you are complaining of was guilty of the allegations being brought against him/her. This is a higher legal test or standard of proof than that required in a medical negligence case before the Courts. 

If you are successful in your Medical Council Complaint, the Medical Council has the power to do the following: 

  • censure and fine the doctor up to €5000
  • attach conditions to the doctor’s registration
  • suspend the doctor’s registration for a specific length or time
  • or cancel the registration indefinitely

The Medical Council cannot order that compensation be paid to you, make a doctor apologise, or give you a detailed explanation of what happened to you. 

Medical Negligence Claim via the Courts

As discussed above, there are many shortcomings with the Hospital/GP Complaints Procedure, HSE Complaints Procedure and the Medical Council Complaints Procedure. Namely, you are limited in the complaints you can make; the effectiveness of a complaints procedure depends on the willingness of the healthcare practitioners to engage and you are limited in the compensation and vindication remedies available to you. Accordingly, the medical negligence litigation process may be more appropriate. 

How Can Croke Medical Law Help?

We will advise you on the various complaint options open to you and advise which is most appropriate given your individual circumstances and facts of the substandard medical treatment. If litigation is deemed to be the most appropriate avenue of redress, we will support and guide you every step of the way to ensure you get the compensation and vindication you deserve.

To speak with an experienced medical negligence solicitor who will listen with the utmost empathy, please contact Laura today.

Healthcare complaint