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The National Health Service (NHS) is Europe's biggest organisation. It has a workforce of around one million people who provide care and treatment for many millions more every year. The NHS spends in excess of 42 bn, this is the second largest item of central government expenditure after social security. In the March 2000 Budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a further 2Bn spend on the NHS and a further 10,000 nurses. However we have seen that the number of nurses is actually 2/3rds of the 15,000 nurses promises two years ago in 1998 which have yet to materialise.

Back in 1997, The Government published a White Paper on the new NHS. This describes how the Government will build a modern and dependable health service fit for the 21st century - a National Health Service which offers people high quality treatment and care when and where they need it. This includes statements on speedier treatment for patients, the launch of NHS Direct, Primary Care Groups and NHSnet.

Well as taxpayers and patients how do you feel about the service of the NHS today. I’m sure we’ve all heard horror stories of mistakes, but are these just isolated incidents? What does the global picture look like?

Most people are uncertain of the goings on in hospitals and they can be bewildering for the uninformed. We like to believe that the staff are all well trained professionals and have our best interests at heart. But they are human and open to failure, the NHS is under resourced and staff are usually overworked. So how easy is it to make a complaint to the NHS? Here is an extract from their web site.

How do I make a complaint about the health service?

To make a complaint you should first formally complain to your local provider of the service. They will try to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction as quickly as possible.

If this is unsatisfactory, you should then seek a review of your complaint by a convener (this is normally a non-executive director of the Trust or Health Authority concerned) who will be advised by an independent lay person. If the convener decides that more should be done to satisfy you, he or she may either establish an independent panel to consider your complaint or ask the service provider to take further action.

If you are still dissatisfied you may ask the Health Service Commissioner (Ombudsman) to investigate your case. The Ombudsman is completely independent of the NHS and of Government and can consider complaints about most aspects of NHS services and treatment. However, he is not obliged to investigate every complaint put to him.


NHS Direct is a new confidential NHS service offering advice and information about health problems and services.

Primary Care Groups (PCGs) are new groups, introduced in April 1999, to put doctors, nurses and health professionals in the community, shaping local services to increase the quality of care and tackle health inequalities more effectively.

NHSnet - The NHS's own information superhighway with the potential to deliver the enormous benefits of information technology to all parts of the NHS.


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