Complaints - Information for Patients

We publish two guides to patients on how to get your concerns heard and, if appropriate, remedied.  Two pdf documents to help you are available by download below. One has been written in association with the Patients Association and is a thorough step-by-step guide to your complaints process.

icon Making a complaint in the independent healthcare sector - a guide for patients (2.99 MB)

icon Mumbles and Grumbles - A Complaints Guide for Children - currently under review

ISCAS engages with the following patient organisations (external websites):

A Code of Practice for Handling Patients' Complaints

The Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) is a membership organisation that independent hospitals, clinics and practices subscribe to and can display the ISCAS logo (seen top left of this page). Membership of ISCAS indicates that a company will abide by a rigorous Code of Practice for handling patients' complaints.

ISCAS Code of Practice for Handling Patients’ Complaints

The Code of Practice for Handling Patients' Complaints can only deal with certain matters. Under this Code the ISCAS member can:

  • carry out an investigation into a complaint and offer an explanation for what happened
  • offer to make an apology, or some other statement of regret
  • take steps to put matters right and reassure the complainant that they have done so.
  • make a gesture of goodwill offer, where appropriate

Steps to satisfying the complaint

The Code of Practice has three progressive stages:

  • Stage 1 - local resolution
  • Stage 2 - complaint review
  • Stage 3 - independent external adjudication


At the local resolution stage (Stage 1) it is the responsibility of the ISCAS Member concerned to look into and respond to the complaint. The aim is to try and sort out any problems as quickly and informally as possible. If the complaint is about a clinician or independent practitioner, it should be addressed to both the clinician and practitioner, and to the registered hospital manager.

The Code of Practice for Handling Patients' Complaints provides that the ISCAS member identifies an individual to relate to the patient, and clear time frames within which ISCAS Members should complete their investigation. Information about how to make a complaint should be easy to find at the hospital / clinic.

A person making a complaint does not have to pay for anything in the complaints process up to and including adjudication.

The Code process may not be available if a patient has started legal proceedings first. What happens if the complainant is not happy with the response?

What happens if the complainant is not happy with the response?

ISCAS Code If the complainant remains unhappy with the response he / she may wish to request an complaint review (Stage 2). This is the responsibility of the designated senior officer, usually the Chief Executive Officer or Managing Director of the organisation (when the ISCAS Member belongs to a group), or in the case of independent ISCAS Members, a non-executive director or trustee who has not been involved in Stage 1 and is removed from the hospital/clinic. The designated senior officer will undertake a review of the correspondence and may interview staff involved, to form an independent view on the handling of the complaint. The designated senior officer will then either confirm the decision and actions of the local manager or offer an alternative resolution.

If the complainant is not satisfied with the alternative resolution offered at Stage 2, he / she has the right to refer the matter to ISCAS for independent adjudication (Stage 3).

An adjudicator, independently appointed from outside ISCAS membership, will consider the complaint. If the complaint is upheld the adjudicator will decide what remedial action, including if an ex gratia award (if appropriate) is necessary.

Complaints about Independent Doctors

When a complaint is against an individual doctor not working within a hospital or clinic environment and that doctor is a member of the Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), complainants can also access a 3 stage complaints procedure and ultimately the adjudication service from ISCAS. Complainants who have completed Stage 1 with the individual doctor or practice and remain unhappy with the outcome can, if the doctor is a IDF member, refer their complaint to the IDF Complaint Resolution Procedure Committee Stage 2. For more details about this please visit the IDF Website. The IDF will provide further details about how to access Stage 3 for complainants who remain dissatisfied following completion of the Stage 2 procedures.


ISCAS adjudication service and PIP implants

The ISCAS Code of Practice for handling complaints aims to bring resolution for complainants at the final stage of the complaints process. It does not deal with issues of legal liability nor operate as a compensation scheme.

It is not appropriate to bring specific individual complaints about the use of the PIP implant by a provider or surgeon direct to the adjudications service. All healthcare providers who subscribe to ISCAS are understood to be following current advice and guidance to manage patients’ concerns. If they receive a complaint about their work which falls within the ISCAS Code then they will follow the Code protocols.

If a patient wishes to complain about the PIP device as such, this is a matter to be referred to the MHRA for resolution because the use of these implants was governed by the MHRA and providers follow the advice issued by MHRA.