When patients complain


Find a solution

Empathise with the customer and show them that you will do whatever you can to resolve the situation. Clarify for them what you think the situation is and to check your understanding. Ask them how they would like the situation to be resolved. Make a commitment to what you can do, ensuring it meets with what they want – don’t discuss what can’t be done. Ask whether your patient is in agreement with the proposed course of action.

Be realistic when considering how to resolve the complaint. For example, don’t offer to have something delivered by 9.30am the next day if there is a risk your delivery may be late. Options to resolve an issue could include replacing a product, offering a refund, making notes on a patient’s PMR to prevent it happening again (with their permission), consulting their GP or offering a gift voucher.

Follow up

Take responsibility for following up any actions that you have committed to. Share the experience with the team to avoid it happening again. Be fair and honest. Thank the patient for raising a concern. Make a note of what the complaint was, the follow-up actions that have been agreed, and then write down when they have been completed.

Some complaints will need referral. Make sure the pharmacy team know who to escalate complaints to if they are not sure that they can deal with it properly. This may be to the pharmacist, the pharmacy manager, head office or a regional management team.

This should all be covered in the SOP. If a complaint is referred, the person who deals with it initially should pass on the relevant information, so that the patient doesn’t have to keep repeating themselves. Even if it has been passed on to someone else, follow it up to check that it has been resolved.

After you have dealt with the complaint, consider what caused it and what can be done to prevent it happening again. Use the opportunity to train the team to prevent problems recurring.

NHS complaints procedure

All contractors should have arrangements in place for the handling of complaints, under the National Health Service (Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) Regulations. These arrangements need to ensure that:

  • Complaints are dealt with efficiently
  • Complaints are properly investigated
  • Complainants are treated with respect and courtesy
  • Complainants receive a timely and appropriate response, are kept informed of any outcome of their complaint and appropriate actions(s) are taken as a result of the complaint.

The regulations include several major elements:

  • Each pharmacy must appoint a “responsible person”
  • Oral complaints dealt with to the satisfaction of the complainant no later than the following day do not need to be handled under these procedures
  • The time limit for making complaints is 12 months
  • The pharmacy must offer to discuss handling of the complaint and setting the time for a response with the complainant
  • The maximum time for responding to a complaint is six months
  • An annual report about complaints must be published, made available to anyone who requests it, and be sent to the area team.

For further information, visit psnc.org.uk



Discuss the following scenarios with your team.

A customer brings back a tub of baby formula that she purchased last week. She noticed that it went out of date last month. She doesn’t have the receipt.

A customer comes in with a box of perindopril 8mg, which has been labelled perindopril 4mg. He has been taking the medicine daily for a week. He is quite angry and concerned that his blood pressure has been affected.

A regular customer who has repeat prescriptions comes in to collect her monthly items. They aren’t made up yet, but you have the prescription. She has a taxi waiting, and is getting frustrated and is complaining to your counter assistant about the delay.

Originally Published by P3 Pharmacy

This website is for healthcare professionals, people who work in pharmacy and pharmacy students. By clicking into any content, you confirm this describes you and that you agree to British Pharmaceutical Students' Association's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

We use essential, performance, functional and advertising cookies to give you a better web experience. Find out how to manage these cookies here. We also use Interest Based Advertising Cookies to display relevant advertisements on this and other websites based on your viewing behaviour. By clicking "Accept" you agree to the use of these Cookies and our Cookie Policy.