The Independent Sector Complaints Adjudication Service (ISCAS) is a membership organisation that private hospitals, clinics and practices subscribe to. It enables them to display the ISCAS logo.

ISCAS is an organisation hosted within the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR), an independent charity.

Membership of ISCAS indicates that a company will abide by a rigorous Code of Conduct for handling the complaints of patients.

You can find a Provider Directory of ISCAS members here.

The Code of Practice for Handling Patients’ Complaints can only deal with certain matters. Under this Code, ISCAS members 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

ISCAS follows a three-stage procedure for handling complaints. This involves:

  • Stage 1 – local resolution
  • Stage 2 – internal appeal
  • 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.

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?

If the complainant remains unhappy with the response they may wish to request an internal appeal (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.

The designated senior officer will consider the complaint and may undertake a review of the correspondence and the handling of the issue at the local level. 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, they have the right to refer the matter to ISCAS for independent adjudication (Stage 3).

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

In addition, the Code permits (but does not require) the use of mediation as an alternative to Stage 3, where both parties are agreed that this is the preferred format for the resolution of matters between them. It should be emphasised that mediation is only appropriate in cases where both parties wish to use it.

By electing for mediation, the option of Independent External Adjudication is removed – whether or not the mediation is concluded.

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 an 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 the completion of the Stage 2 procedures.