Should you be afraid to ask questions about your treatment?

We are often contacted by people whose main concern is that they don’t understand what has happened or why they were treated in a particular way but they don’t necessarily consider the doctor/consultant/nurse/dentist has been negligent. Many people leave hospital or other healthcare providers feeling like they don’t fully understand what occurred or why. Healthcare professionals and the healthcare system can seem intimidating or daunting particularly if you don’t feel physically or emotionally well, as a result many people never ask for further information, others feel troubled by their concerns long after treatment has finished. If you don’t fully understand or you can’t quite stop thinking about an aspect of your treatment or care should you be afraid to ask a question? The firm answer is “NO”, if you are unsure about any of your treatment, diagnosis given or advice provided you should always feel safe and justified  to ask “what, why, when” or “can you explain that to me again”. This applies at an appointment, as an inpatient or even after you are home, as often it’s only then you have time to reflect on what occurred. Doctors and Hospitals generally welcome this as often just asking simple questions can lead to misunderstandings being quickly resolved, reassurance given and avoid unnecessary worry or stress and long investigations weeks or months later.

If you do have a question or you don’t understand what happened, what can you do? Well there are several options. You can approach the doctor or consultant directly either at your next appointment or before then via their secretary. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that you can make use of other services designed to assist you. If it relates to hospital assessment/treatment all NHS Trusts have a PALS Department (Patient Advice and Liaison Department) whose purpose is to deal with questions or concerns from patients or their families either during or after their care. Their contact details can be found on the particular NHS Trust’s website, but equally you can call the hospital and just ask for the department or their details. In cases where you have specific questions we always recommend they are asked in written format and a written reply is requested, this is simply to avoid confusion and clients have often expressed to us it helped in months or in some cases years to come that they had that to refer back to or to discuss at the time with friends or family. Obviously some questions are so simple and straightforward or perhaps so urgent that speaking to someone in the PALS team is the more suitable option. If the question relates to a Dentist, GP or other healthcare provider then the Surgery’s Practice Manager can usually assist as the first point of call, again a written approach may be more beneficial if the questions are complex or you prefer this method of communication. There is no right or wrong way to do this, it’s entirely what you feel most comfortable with.

Many people feel wary of approaching the PALS department or the Surgery as they don’t want to be seen as a complainer or a troublemaker, but these services are not only designed for you to complain about treatment but also to assist you if you have questions or need information. Many concerns can be resolved and worry set aside by simply asking them why they did something or what that means for your health. Asking for information should not been seen as troublemaking and in fact a large percentage of enquiries made praise certain aspects of care given and should not be seen as complaining. That said if you do feel that you wish to make a complaint about treatment or advice you should also feel free to use these same services to ask for your complaint to be investigated as this is an important aspect of their work and also entirely justified.

Should you have any questions or want any advice on how to go about asking questions regarding your treatment or whether you should in fact make a complaint please do not hesitate to call us for a free no obligation chat on 01642 231110.

Joanne Dennison – September 2015