On 1 January 2007 a new statutory complaints system for the HSE came into effect. This system allows anyone receiving public health or personal social services in Ireland to make a complaint about the actions or failures of the HSE. The complaints system also covers service providers with HSE contracts who provide health or personal social services on behalf of the HSE. The law governing the complaints system is set out in Part 9 of the Health Act 2004.
You may make a complaint about any action of the HSE or a service provider that:
• In your view, doesn’t seem to be fair or reliable administrative
• Adversely affects you, or someone on whose behalf you are making a complaint.
Administrative practice refers to the way decisions are made and how
services operate. Under the complaints system, administrative practice isn’t
considered to be fair or reliable if it is:
• Taken without proper authority
• Taken on irrelevant grounds
• The result of negligence or carelessness
• Based on erroneous or incomplete information
• Improperly discriminatory
• Based on undesirable administrative practice, or
• In any other respect, against fair or sound administration.
If you are unable to make a complaint on your own behalf due to your age,
illness or disability, someone else can make a complaint on your behalf. These
• A close relative or carer
• Anyone appointed by law or the courts to take care of your affairs. (This would seem to include a Committee of a Ward of Court or someone appointed under an Enduring Power of Attorney. It is not however entirely clear as the law which applies to Committees and Attorneys gives them specific and not general powers)
• A legal representative
• Anyone else with your consent, or
• Anyone who is appointed, as set out in the Regulations.
Yes. In such cases the complaint may be made by a close relative or carer. A close relative includes a parent, guardian, son, daughter, spouse or cohabiting partner. Remember, the complaint must be made within 12 months of the date of the action giving rise to the complaint or of the person becoming aware of the action. A complaints officer may extend the time limit if there are special circumstances involved.
You cannot complain about:
• A matter that is, or has been the subject of legal proceedings before a court or tribunal
• A matter relating solely to the clinical judgment (medical decision) by a person acting on behalf of the HSE or a service provider
• An action taken by the HSE or a service provider solely on the advice of someone exercising their clinical judgment
• A matter relating to the recruitment, appointment or terms and conditions of an employee or advisor of the HSE or a service provider
• A matter relating to the Social Welfare Acts, for example the Supplementary Allowance Scheme. (These are dealt with through the Social Welfare Appeals Office)
• A matter relating to the registration of births, marriages and deaths that could be the subject of an appeal (Section 60 of the Civil Registration Act 2004)
• A matter that could prejudice an investigation being undertaken by the Gardaí
• A matter that has been brought before any other statutory complaints procedure. (This doesn’t prevent a complaints officer dealing with a complaint that was made to the Ombudsman or the Ombudsman for Children).
A complaints officer cannot make a recommendation which would require the
HSE to make a material change to its approved service plan. (Approved service
plans indicate the type and volume of health and personal social services to be
provided by the HSE, they indicate planned capital spending on services,
Complaints officers cannot make recommendations either that would require a change to be made to the contractual arrangements which the HSE has with a service provider.
If the CEO of the HSE or the service provider considers that a recommendation breaches this rule, they may amend the recommendation as required, or they may reject the recommendation and take other measures to deal with the complaint.
Yes. The HSE is obliged to publish information about the complaints procedure, as part of its annual report. Service providers must provide the HSE with details about the number and the nature of complaints dealt with, through their own complaints procedures.
14 of the Disability Act 2005 provides for a statutory complaints system
for people with disabilities who are dissatisfied with decisions about:
• How their needs are assessed
• The contents of service statements and
• The delivery of services outlined in service statements.
This complaints system is not yet in place. It is unclear whether the same complaints officers will deal with complaints under the disability legislation AND complaints relating to the general health and personal social services.
Furthermore, the rules under which the disability complaints officers are to operate differ from those under the general system:
Remember however, this complaints system is not currently in place.
If you wish to make a complaint about the HSE you should first of all try to
resolve the problem locally. That means, bringing the complaint to the
attention of the person in charge of the service, for example the ward sister
in the case of a hospital complaint, or the supervisor in charge for other
services. Some general
advice on how to make a consumer complaint is available here.
If you are still unhappy, you can make your complaint through the formal complaints mechanism. This means contacting the Local Health Office manager for complaints about community care services. You should contact the hospital administrator for formal complaints about hospital services.
If you wish to make a complaint about a service provider providing services on behalf of the HSE, you should contact the complaints officer for the service provider.
It is advisable to make your formal complaint in writing, giving as much detail as you can. Written complaints will be acknowledged within five working days and the complaint will be investigated within 30 days. If the investigation takes longer than 30 days, the HSE will keep you up updated about progress on your complaint every 20 working days.
Following the investigation, you will receive a written response to your complaint and will be advised of your right to have an internal review of the recommendation of the complaints officer. You will also be told of your right to complain to the Ombudsman.
The Health Act 2004 provided for the setting up of the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The statutory basis for the HSE complaints procedure became law in 2007 through Statutory Instrument 651/2006. The detailed Regulations, are contained in the Health Act 2004 (Complaints) Regulations – SI 652/2006.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.