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Making a complaint

Tips on how to make a complaint

Most medical care and treatment goes well, but things occasionally go wrong, and you may want to complain. So where do you start? 

The NHS has its own complaints procedure, which is always the first step for any complaint, including complaints about a professional misconduct.

However, the NHS complaints procedure does not cover cases in which you wish to complain about a regulator, private health services or raise concerns about a care home or social care service. In those circumstances different rules apply. Take a look at the sections:

What to consider before making a complaint

If you decide to make a complaint it's important to consider what you want to happen. Are you content with an apology, do you want action to be taken against a member of staff, or do you want a change to the system? Whatever action you're seeking, make this clear.

Before you make your complaint, make a note of the relevant events, dates, times, names and conversations, and include all necessary details. Your notes will also help you to remember all the details in the future. Processing a complaint can take a while, and you might be asked to verify some information at a later stage.

Whether you decide to complain orally or in writing, try to make your explanations as short and clear as possible. Focus on the main issues, and leave out irrelevant details. If you can, talk through what you want to say with someone else, or ask them to read what you've written before you send it. If you complain in writing, keep a copy of everything you post, and make a note of when you sent it.

Who can help you make a complaint?

Making a complaint can be daunting, but help is available.

Patient Advice and Liaison Service

Most hospitals have a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). They offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters to patients, their families and their carers. Find your local PALS office.

Local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs)

Most CCGs have a complaints section on their website. Here you find details of when to make a complaint, what information to provide and to whom you should forward the complaint, depending on what type of service you're raising issues with. Find details of your local CCG

NHS Complaints Advocacy Service

All local authorities have a statutory duty to commission independent advocacy services to provide support for people making, or thinking of making, a complaint about their NHS care or treatment.

Local authorities contract different service providers to supply NHS complaints advocacy services. You should contact your local authority if you wish to know who your advocacy provider is. Alternatively, we have listed some providers below, see if they cover your area:

  • Carers Federation – covering Doncaster, East Riding, Greater Manchester, North East, North East Lincolnshire, North Lincolsnshire, and Merseyside and Cheshire
  • POhWER – covering Bedford Borough, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Derby City, Derbyshire, Dudley, Essex, Hertfordshire, Leicester City, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Luton, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire, Peterborough, Rutland, Sandwell, Shropshire, Solihull, Stoke on Trent, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Waltham Forest, and Warwickshire
  • Healthwatch Staffordshire - provides service across Staffordshire 
  • Voice Ability
  • SEAP
  • North Yorkshire and Hull NHS Complaints Advocacy Service
  • Advocacy for All - covering the London Borough of Bexley 

We will continue to enhance the list of providers as and when we receive more information from NHS England or local authorities.

Citizens Advice Bureau

Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can be a great source of advice and support if you want to complain about the NHS, social services or local authorities. You can search for your local Citizens Advice Bureau on its website. 

Healthwatch

Local Healthwatch may also offer free independent information or advice about how to make a comment about local health services.

Giving feedback and comments

Not all issues have to end up with a complaint. Sometimes it is enough to give feedback or leave a comment. All NHS organisations and service providers do welcome feedback as it will help improve the quality of their services.

You may also want to make positive comments on the care and services that you've received. These comments are just as important because they tell NHS organisations which factors are contributing to a good experience for patients.

How you can leave feedback is different for each organisation but often you will find feedback boxes in GP surgeries and online feedback forms on an organisation’s website. There are also feedback surveys you may be asked to fill in, such as PROMS (Patient reported outcome measures) or the Friends and family test, which look to see if you are happy with a surgery or treatment received in hospital.

You can give feedback about an NHS service you've used on this website. You can comment and rate almost any NHS service, including hospitals, GP practices and dentists. 

You can make comments on what you liked about the service, and what you feel could be improved. Your comments will be posted on this site for other users of the service to see. The service may respond to your comments.

Feedback about NHS Choices

You can also use the NHS Choices feedback form. Submit feedback about the NHS and its services by selecting the relevant service on the form.

NHS Choices welcomes feedback on all content on the site. There are two ways to provide feedback:

  • Comments – there is the ability to comment on content at the bottom of the page. You will need an NHS Choices account to comment, and all comments are subject to our Comments policy.
  • Contact – you can contact us through the Contact link at the top of every page on the site. Your feedback will go through to the NHS Choices Service Desk who will pass it on to the appropriate NHS Choices editorial team member.

NHS Choices complaint process

In the event that a complaint is made about a piece of content that cannot be resolved by the NHS Choices journalist, the matter will be escalated to the Chief Editor.

Note: NHS Choices is only responsible for the content of this website and any operational issues about it. If you wish to make a complaint about our content or any operational issues, please email complain@nhschoices.nhs.uk. Additionally you can take a look at the NHS Choices complaint process (PDF, 151kb) and for more detailed information see the NHS Choices complaints policy (PDF, 1.04Mb).

Page last reviewed: 03/07/2014

Next review due: 03/07/2016

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