Complaining about poor treatment for PGP

By Julie Hinckley

Like many women, I wasted too much time at the hands of poor physiotherapists and osteopaths who knew little about how to treat PGP effectively. I felt strongly (and still do) that these practitioners and their governing bodies needed to know how their involvement added to my lack of progress with PGP, in the hope that other women would be spared from the same fate. Also, it was important to me to release my distress and anger at having wasted a year and a half of my time, which greatly delayed my recovery. In the case of one practitioner, in particular, it was important to me to raise my concerns about several aspects of their practice so these were clearly identified, outlined and recorded.

Overall, it was very important to me to do everything in my power to prevent other women having to go through the same lack of care and absence of suitable treatment that I had experienced. It is only recently, thanks to the Pelvic Partnership helping me to find an excellent physiotherapist, that I am beginning to lead a normal life again and to recover after having PGP for so long.

Making a start

Firstly, I wrote complaint letters to each of the physiotherapists I had paid to see privately. When I received no replies to my letters, I then emailed my complaints to them, and this brought a response from one or two. Next, I contacted the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) to complain about these physiotherapists because this organisation regulates health, psychological and social work professionals and investigates ‘fitness to practise’ type complaints. I also contacted the General Osteopathic Council and was sent a form to complete in order to make a complaint about each osteopath who’d let me down.

In addition, I emailed the Director of Women’s Services, the Head of Physiotherapy and the Chief Executive for my local hospital to raise my concerns and to complain. I also got in touch with PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) at my local hospital, detailing my complaints about my treatment for PGP. After waiting for two months and still not receiving a reply, I started making phone calls to them and this approach finally started to get things moving.

Getting some redress

A month later I received a written reply, which I felt was not enough, as I believed my complaint had still not been resolved. So I emailed again telling them this and explaining my reasons. All in all, I waited four months to receive a decent apology and a detailed response which could demonstrate to me that my complaints had not only been understood but thoroughly investigated.

Looking back, it was shocking to see how many times I had to chase things up myself to find out why I had not received replies to my complaints. However, it was well worth my time and effort in pursuing these complaints to the NHS, as I know that steps are being taken to address the treatment of PGP for other women in the future. I also know that the NHS practitioners I named have been investigated and are aware that they did not deal with my PGP effectively. The reply I had indicates that they have done a comprehensive review of their services and made significant changes, as well as addressing and monitoring the individuals involved. This feels like progress but I am still in the process of following up my complaints via the HCPC.

Why complaining is vital

I really want to urge women to complain about the poor treatment they are receiving or have received for PGP because as far as I can see, this is the only way we can help to force through changes for the better. It is also the only way to let the practitioners know that their treatment of PGP was ineffectual and demonstrate dissatisfaction with their service. I feel that if no one speaks up, these practitioners may think they are doing a good job and successfully treating women for PGP, when in fact the reverse is true!

In my case, a great deal of time was wasted and my progress towards a good recovery was considerably delayed. So I would like to spread the word to other women that if you are still in pain and not noticing any improvement after each treatment session, then do not waste any more time on that practitioner. I wish I had known this at the start of my PGP, to avoid the unnecessary pain and problems. Back then, I had not found the Pelvic Partnership and did not know what sort of treatment I ought to be receiving or that I didn’t have to put up with chronic pain for month after month. I really believed what my NHS physios told me for almost a year: “Keep doing core strength exercises and you will get better,” and, “It is down to laxity of ligaments and you will get better with time.”

I wish I had received ‘hands on’ manual treatment at each session, from a knowledgeable practitioner who was experienced in treating PGP successfully. Ideally, you shouldn’t have to look outside the NHS but I felt I had to go privately to get the treatment I needed. All I would say about going private is that having your life and your mobility back is worth it. I hope there are some decent NHS physios out there, as it is not fair that women should have to pay to get better. Indeed, many woman may not be able to afford the luxury of going for private treatment.

‘Thank you’ to the Pelvic Partnership for listening to me, supporting me and providing the information that helped me through a very difficult time.

Thank you, Julie, for your article showing the importance of making a complaint when manual therapy is not offered or the practitioner is not sufficiently experienced or proficient to really bring an improvement to mobility, pain or freedom of movement after each treatment session. It is very difficult to have the confidence or energy to complain when you are feeling vulnerable, in pain and when you have limited mobility. If you can, get in touch with the Pelvic Partnership and ask for additional support from family and friends (who can also accompany you to increase your confidence).

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The Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on both research and the experience of other women with PGP. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice and the information we provide should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material on this site is provided for information and support purposes only.

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