Making a complaint if you or your baby has been affected by Group B Streptococcus

27th January 2022 Clinical Negligence

We all hope that if going into hospital to have a baby all will go well and the care we receive will be of a high standard. For most parents, that is what happens.

However, sometimes unfortunately, things can go wrong and when they do it is understandable that you will have questions, will want answers and may want to complain.

For example, if your baby develops Group B Strep (GBS) infection you may want to know why and if the infection could have been avoided or treated earlier or differently.

NHS complaints procedure

If you received your antenatal care and/or had your baby in an NHS hospital, the NHS has a complaints procedure that you can follow. You can find details on the link here.

You should usually make your complaint within 12 months of the care you are concerned about, but some hospitals may investigate complaints after that time.

Under the NHS procedure, once you submit your complaint the hospital should acknowledge it and offer to discuss how it will be managed with you within three working days.  They should then investigate your concerns, for example by reviewing your or your baby’s medical records and/or speaking to the staff involved in your care, and report back to you in writing.

Unfortunately, there is no set timeframe within which the hospital must provide you with their response to your complaint. However, the NHS complaints procedure provides that if you do not receive a response in six months, you should be told the reason for the delay.

The response, when you receive it, should set out the results of the hospital’s investigations. The NHS complaints procedure says that “where appropriate” the response should also include an apology and information about what's being done as a result of your complaint.

If you received care in a private hospital, then most private healthcare providers also have a complaints process that you should be able to find on their website.

How to make a complaint

A complaint can be verbal or written.

You can try talking to the doctor or nurse in charge of the clinic or ward you were on, especially if you are still in hospital and there is a chance to change the care you are receiving or to prevent you or your baby coming to harm.

However, you can also make a written complaint to the hospital.  You may want to do this if your concerns are not dealt with satisfactorily by your medical team, or if you have already left hospital.

If you are making a complaint in writing, it can be done by letter or by email.

Usually, a complaint should be made to the chief executive of the hospital, but you can also complain via the Patient Advice and Liaison service- PALS (if the hospital has one), who will assist you with the complaint, or through any ‘feedback’ or complaints form on the hospital website.

There is no specific ‘format’ for a written complaint. You just need to explain why you have concerns about your care and ask the hospital to investigate your complaint.

To make sure it is clear you want your concerns dealing with under the complaints procedure we would advise heading your letter ‘Complaint’ and saying that you wish to complain. For example, you could start your letter:

‘I am writing to make a formal complaint about the care my baby and I received in [] hospital on [] date at the time of the birth of my baby. My baby developed GBS infection.’

It would also be helpful if you set out at the start of your letter/email which hospital you were in, when and why.  Your letter should then give some further details about what had happened, for example, explaining when and how your baby became ill, and what treatment he or she needed.

We suggest you ask the hospital to investigate your concerns and set out any specific questions you have. The sort of questions you might want to ask include, whether you had a fever or an infection, and/or whether your baby was found to have GBS infection and/or whether you were given anti-biotics.

Finally, we would advise finishing your complaint by asking the hospital to confirm safe receipt of your letter/email and asking when you can expect to receive a response.

If you are not happy with the outcome of your complaint

If you are not satisfied with the response from the hospital, then you can ask further questions and/or to meet with them to discuss your concerns further.

If you feel your complaint was not handled properly, for example you did not receive a response,  you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (0345 015 4033 or Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website).  However, please note that the Ombudsman investigates the way the hospital handled the complaint only. They will not investigate the issues you were complaining about.

Who can help you with a complaint?

As indicated above, PALS at the hospital should be able to help you with your complaint. They can liaise with the staff on the ward for you or help you put your concerns into writing. However, be aware that they are not independent of the hospital.

Other options for assistance with a complaint are:

If you think that the care you received was negligent and you or your baby have suffered harm as a result and you want to consider making a medical negligence claim for compensation, then firms like JMW, who have a team of specialist clinical negligence lawyers, may be able to help you so please do get in touch.

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Nicola Wainwright is a Partner and Head of London Clinical Negligence located in Londonin our Clinical Negligence department

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