NHS England recently circulated guidance to all trusts reiterating their obligation to properly investigate complaints where a claim has been intimated. 

The guidance repeats that in accordance with the Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009 (referred to as the Complaints Regulations 2009) the position, since 1 April 2009, is that where a complainant expresses an intention to bring legal proceedings, an NHS body should continue to try and resolve the complaint quickly - unless there are compelling legal reasons not to do so. 

The reasons include where there are exceptional reasons to justify it or the complainant has requested the investigation be delayed. Exceptional circumstances may include a formal request to do so by the police, coroner or a judge. These exceptions are, however that, simply exceptions, and in the majority of cases the complainant’s intention to bring a legal claim should not affect the complaint investigation. 

The NHS England Guidance supports the Department of Health clarification note sent in January 2010 to remind NHS bodies of this obligation and NHS England reminds NHS bodies to inform all staff involved in complaints of their note and to review (and if necessary, update) their policy, literature and web information on complaints.