Complaints & Investigations
Most health professionals will receive a complaint or be involved in an investigation at some point in their career. When this happens to you it may leave you feeling confused or even ashamed – this is perfectly normal. We hope the guides and resources in this section will help you understand the process and navigate your way through.
So….You have received a complaint or been told you are facing an investigation. This may be an internal investigation by the organisation in which you work or you may have been notified by your regulatory body (GMC/GDC). For many health professionals, the prospect of facing a complaint or professional dispute causes them significant stress. This can manifest itself in how they perform in clinical practice and/or in their personal life and may lead to physical and psychological symptoms.
This set of guides and resources has been developed in collaboration with a group of NHS Practitioner Health patients, all of whom have been through an incident or complaint. For some this has led to suspension or even erasure, but their goal here is to share their experience and expertise and demonstrate that there is a pathway through and with the right help and guidance you will stay on track. This guide was written with doctors and dentists in mind but many of the principles may apply across a broader range of healthcare resources.
"I've had good seasons and some deeply painful ones. I've made some spectacularly good choices and some outrageously bad mistakes. I'm very human -a work in progress".
Robin Sharma, The Greatness Guide
Where to start?
Firstly, like dealing with any medical emergency, you need to stay calm, keep a clear head, and develop a management plan. See Stage 1: Complaint or Incident on first steps for more information.
Consider taking a few days of leave, to reflect on what you need to do.
Your first goal is to disclose to someone that you trust, which is not easy to do and should not be underestimated. However, the benefit of having someone you can talk to about what is going on can make all the difference. See Stage2: Disclosure on who needs to know for more information.
Once you have overcome this main hurdle, it is time for some admin Stage 3: Gathering Information. See our stages on next steps to help you through the process of preparing for and attending hearings and panels Stage 4: Investigations & Hearings. Our section on when the outcome is known Stage 5: Decisions made - what next? can help you in considering what impact the investigation may have on your professional career and how you may need to plan or do things differently. Most doctors or dentists will need to consider how they demonstrate insight and reflection and that their clinical skills remain up to date during an investigation process.
Stage 6: Remediation will provide more information, including a template for you to use. In some cases, a clinician may receive a temporary suspension or restriction on their practice, or rarely, even face erasure. Stage 7:Options when not working you consider how you might deal with this scenario. Our section Stage 8: Return to work after an absence will help you prepare for being back in the workplace, to consider how you might handle questions and protect yourself from facing a similar incident.
Finally our resources section provide a range of information and links you may find useful.