Complaints Procedure

Time limit for making a complaint

A complaint must be made no later than 1 month after the date on which the matter which is the subject of the complaint occurred; or if later, the date on which the matter came to the notice of the complainant. If the pharmacy is satisfied that the complainant had good reason for not making the complaint within this time limit and that it is still possible to investigate the complaint effectively and fairly, then the time limit does not apply.

Form of communications

If the complainant consents (and has not withdrawn that consent) any communication with the complainant required by the regulations can be sent electronically.  When sending electronically, the requirement for a signature is met if the person authorised to send the communication types their name or produces their name using a computer or other electronic means.

Procedure before investigation

A complaint may be made orally, in writing or electronically, but if made orally the pharmacy contractor must make a written record of the complaint and provide a copy of this record to the complainant.

The pharmacy must acknowledge the complaint not later than 3 working days after the date on which the complaint is received.  Working days under these regulations means Mondays to Fridays which are not Christmas Day, Good Friday or a Bank Holiday. The acknowledgement may be made orally or in writing.

At the time of acknowledging the complaint, the pharmacy contractor must offer to discuss with the complainant, at a time to be agreed with the complainant –

the manner in which the complaint is to be handled; and

the response period within which—

the investigation of the complaint is likely to be completed; and

the final response is likely to be sent to the complainant.

The time for response is for the pharmacy and complainant to agree (but this should not normally exceed six months – see later).  If the complainant does not accept the offer of a discussion the pharmacy must determine the response period and notify the complainant in writing of that period.

Investigation and response

A pharmacy must investigate the complaint in a manner appropriate to resolve it speedily and efficiently and during the investigation, keep the complainant informed, as far as reasonably practicable, as to the progress of the investigation.

During an investigation, it may be necessary to interview the complainant, members of staff, or others who are able to give an account which may help establish the facts. 

As soon as reasonably practicable after completing the investigation, the pharmacy must send the complainant in writing a response, signed by the responsible person, which includes —

a report which includes the following matters—confirmation as to whether the pharmacy contractor is satisfied that any action needed in consequence of the complaint has been taken or is proposed to be taken;

an explanation of how the complaint has been considered; and

the conclusions reached in relation to the complaint including any matters for which the complainant or pharmacy contractor considers remedial action is needed.

The pharmacy has up to six months in which to make the response to the complainant.

The principles of ‘Making Experiences Count’ include ensuring the complainant receives a timely response. 

If the pharmacy does not send the complainant a response within 1 month of receipt or such longer period as agreed before the end of that 1 month period between the pharmacy contractor and the complainant, the pharmacy contractor must notify the complainant in writing and explain the reason why; and send the complainant in writing a response as soon as reasonably practicable.

Because of the possibility that the complainant made the complaint in order to gain information so as to pursue a civil claim against the pharmacy or staff, it may be helpful to ask the professional indemnity insurer for advice on the proposed response, before it is dispatched.