You are here:

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.

However, the NHS complaints procedure does not cover cases in which you wish to complain about a regulator, private health services, report professional misconduct 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, Birmingham, Cambridgeshire, Central Bedfordshire, Coventry, Derby City, Derbyshire, Dudley, Essex, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Leicester City, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Luton, Milton Keynes, Norfolk, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire, Peterborough, Rutland, Sandwell, Shropshire, Solihull, Staffordshire, Stoke on Trent, Telford and Wrekin, Thurrock, Waltham Forest, and Warwickshire
  • Voice Ability
  • SEAP

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, 482kb).

Comments

The 25 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Maryle said on 30 October 2014

My recent experiences are not in relation to myself but my brother. He had been fit and healthy then suddenly suffered from shortness of breath. He was never one to make a fuss and awaking in early hours with tight and heavy chest phoned 111, he was told to see his GP in the morning, he did so and was sent for X-Ray, egg and blood tests and was told to go back later in the week for tests. Sadly he never got the chance, in the early hours of the following morning after getting a taxi to the A & E dept of the local hospital, (yes he probably should have had an ambulance) he collapsed whilst waiting and died after resuscitation attempts unsuccessful. Three thing wrong in this, 111 wrong advice, being made to wait when suffering chest pain and shortness of breath and heart condition not being picked up by GP despite annual over 40 health checks. Any comments?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Vikrant Dhankhar said on 22 July 2014

I have been trying to get registered with an NHS dentist for over 3 weeks now and so fed up with the long waiting times with most of the dentists, they seem not interested in NHS patients and offer a fast paced private treatment which is much more expensive, makes me wonder if I have to take an option of private treatment, why am I paying towards NHS, frustrated, I would opt out of NHS if given a choice!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Mand7 said on 07 April 2014

I have been waiting just over 3 months for MRI results.
(What's the norm)?

I went to the doctors to get some pain relief whilst waiting for the results, I was told I have had everything possible so left upset and frustrated.

The GP didn't even offer to chase up the results in order to help me.

Just so fed up with the NHS

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

sowhat said on 02 April 2014

The link "How to make a complaint" goes to this website - http://www.publiclawproject.org.uk/

It contains no information on how to make a complaint.

I've read other complaints about the information on this website but this takes the biscuit. They like everyone else in the NHS are trying to ensure no-one complaints about incompetent professionals.

I suggest if your complaint is likely be clinicial negligence go and speak to a lawyer.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Ailybee said on 24 March 2014

I have just received a phone call canceling my procedure the day before it was to take place and on looking at what happens next I am appalled to see I could wait 18 weeks before my operation now takes place,
I have been absent from work for 3 and half months waiting for this as I cannot walk and am in constant pain,
Do you not realise the impact you have on peoples lives with couldn't care less cancellations? As a result of this I could lose my job and at my age I will not find another and if I cannot work I cannot pay my mortgage -and you deliver this devastating news with a phone call saying sorry we are overbooked someone will be in touch. I feel abandoned by a service I have paid into all my life

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Williamwordsworth said on 15 January 2014

Myexperience. This person is spot on. I could not put the words better myself.

I am at present taking civil action against two Parliamntary Healt Service Ombudsman, and a third person in the pipe line. The abuse of trust that the above tramples upon, needs to be stopped, and if civil procedings against staff that just shuffle papers is needed, then so be it.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

ging15 said on 03 January 2014

you say the nhs cares for vetrens/ exservicemen well in my apion my doctors dont give a dam about us ive stopped going to see them its just not worth it. after 24 years service it makes you think why did i bother sometimes think i wish i had been killed in service.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jackiesw said on 31 December 2013

Isn't it interesting that when you click on the link 'How to make a complaint " it is always unavailable due to technical difficulties? I have been trying for over two weeks now .

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

myexperience said on 11 November 2013

You have stated that "The Ombudsman carries out independent investigations into complaints " but I think people should know that the Ombudsman (the PHSO) can not be relied on to investigate a case.

Less than 2% of all cases are investigated and there is no comprehensive review of evidence available. In many cases the review will be by untrained staff with no medical or legal experience or knowledge of general practices, or even local practices which have failed you. It is also my experience that you will not be allowed to know who has reviewed your case.

The prime purpose of the PHSO is to limit the effect of damaging medical failures and only to step in when high profile cases are revealed by media reports i.e. a significant number of injuries must be caused before anyone speaks up to say how good they are in doing something. Even then the PHSO has no power to force changes or sack negligent practitioners.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

xianachanna said on 21 October 2013

What does HealthWatch do?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Malcolm Hartney Health said on 03 October 2013

I find this page very useful. It has saved me looking through phone books and having to speak to lots of different people. Many thanks for this.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

ga123 said on 04 April 2013

Hello can anyone please give me some advice?
My step-father has cancer for about three years. A fluid is building up in his stomach which causes him pain and heavy breathing.
He had two operations to remove the fluid 7 days ago. The 1st operation removed 2L and the 2nd operation removed 3L .
He is now back in hospital for the same issues and this time around he's operation been cancelled twice by his doctor.
He cant hardly eat because every time he does his stomach gets bigger.
I am not an expert or anything but if the cancer fluid is building up in his stomach and it keeps on coming back why didn't his doctor insert a tube for him to remove the liquid himself when it builds up during the first operation or second?
I am so frustrated about my father operation being cancelled twice because he is in pain and i cannot bear to see him like this.
Can anyone offer any advice? It would be greatly appreciated.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

rubynolegs said on 18 February 2013

Rache 1
Use the words disability discrimination friend, then go to the General Medical Council site and get their phone number.

Give them a call and they will send you a set of cards, take to every medical practitioner you need to visit and hand them one.

It will be enough to get fast treatment, but if that fails call them back and report the practitioner concerned. If you do not have their Registration number, they just need the persons name and Practice adress. I had to do it and it improved things.

Just knowing you contacted the GMC makes them sit up.

You might want to browse this site;

www.gmc-org/learningdisabilities

Good luck sweet pea.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

healthwarning said on 27 August 2012

The on screen pages here seem to be firmly in the territory of "imaginary internet sites that don't exist". Can the "moderators" take a moment to think, that information that is given on this site, might be directly responsible for someones health.

All this really does beg for people to take matters into their own hands, and create their own information sites which rectify the bad information given here.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

windchimes said on 12 April 2012

it would be interesting to see the outcomes if any of any of the complaints listed on this site. Mine is also a comment of frustration.
I have tried to get an appt to see a GP for 12 days now, and have also tried to complain to the NHS. Nothing happens.
It would appear that absolutely no advances have been made in the quality of patient care over the last couple of years and yet the cost (prescription etc.,) has gone up.

Why do the NHS go on about a complaints system that is always out to lunch (Brent & Harrow) and a committment to quality patient care when you cannot see a GP unless you wait one to two hours?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

ao777 said on 12 November 2011

My boyfriend is mentally ill, the other week he got arrested and committed to a secure unit in sussex. He believe there is nothing wrong with him but there is, he refuses to have any help and because of this they removed him to a less secure unit. On arriving at this unit I phoned him and the plug was pulled on the phone because of the manner of the conversation he was coming out with (basically the delusional stuff he always comes out with) I couldnt believe it when 3 hours later he had been seen and the specialists had asked him what he wanted out of his stay with them. He said there is nothing wrong with him so he didn't want anything out of his stay so they released him. I have been trying to get him help for over the last 6 months and as he doesn't think there is anything wrong with him when there clearly is to everyone who knows him, people and his family have disowned him, I've had to send him home to his flat because I can't cope with him anymore and he has become violent and aggressive, yet they let him out without treatment. Not only that he has practically lived with me for the past 12 months and even when I explain this to doctors and mental health teams near where he lives, they will not accept me as a nearest relative because he isnt living with me at present, if they would do that I could give them all the information they need to help him, as it is I have no faith in the mental health system anymore, he used to take medication but stopped taking it and gets worse as each day passes, what I want to know is what is it going to take for someone to have the balls to give him the drugs he needs to get well again, he doesnt bathe, he hardly eats and is skeletal compared to what he used to be he has a massive beard and hair and he used to be so smart, he doesnt cut his finger nails either and they could see this in the hospitals he was in yet they let him go. He is going to keep getting arrested and keep ending up in hospitals until someone treats him

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Another Passive Recipient said on 23 October 2011

As I previously explained to you, we are not taking any further action on your complaint and your case will remain closed. Ms xxxxx letter to you of xxxxx 2011 was our final decision on the matter and we will not be providing you with the further information or explanations that you seek

The above is what you can expect from an Health Ombudsman employee

You are supposed to / would think you'd able add to your complaint should further facts turn up
(It's there for General Public protection)
Extremely relevant information could turn up at a moments notice - things aren't that clear cut

But the Director of Outcomes & Learning would prefer
to look into why not to look into things - that their non qualified staff (assessor) come up with.

It is so babyish / unprofessional - it's a waste of time even contacting them - only 2% of complaints are looked into - only if they can't wriggle out of it.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Trevor26 said on 06 September 2011

Ever tried to complain about an NHS doctor? Just spent 45 minutes flicking from screen to screen trying to make a complaint.No joy. They're like police,aren't they? Turn invisible,hidden by thousands of words,whenever there's a complaint to be made

There'll just be bland acceptance of this and a return to impregnable complaint procedure pages.On the NHS-free Continent there's none of this ducking and weaving.Why not? Well,they earn their living from satisfying their patients. Any Continental GP doing this shadowboxing routine would starve to death.
But the doctors here live off the taxpayer and dont really give a stuff about who walks into their surgeries.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Telitacitis said on 08 July 2011

The spurious and automated response from NHS choices is simply appalling. I have tried to find an NHS dentist in Surrey, let alone locally. NHS choices gives a lengthy list but the majority are non NHS and those that are invariably limit treatment to children (future private customers) and a minority of adults that would pose little threat to their lucrative practices.
This lip service to NHS probably allows them to retain a certain status however cynical.
Ask NHS choices for an NHS dentist within 20 miles of your home that treats adults and you can probably count the results on one hand- if you're lucky - remember the recent Dispatches programme? The problem is endemic. Are there any ethical dentists left who practice in the NHS - certainly NHS choices can't help you find one. No doubt this is a service that we all pay for and I for one would like a job in a well pensioned service that paid me for very doing little, although you might have to press a button to send an automated response to a bothersome tax payer.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

al123 said on 13 June 2011

Highbridge Medical Centre in Somerset has a really bad apointment service. You have to ring at 8:30am and hope you are first in the queue or you don't get an apointment.
This completely defeats the point of them being a health care provider people who are ill are unable to get apointments.

I cannot phone until gone midday due to being ill. It is an impossibility for me to phone at 8:30am an d yet I still get a receiponist lecturing me on how I have to ring at 8:30am if I want an apointment or I can't get one and I will have to see a different doctor.
The other doctors are unable to help, and just refer me back to my GP. Even though thye are my GP i do not get priority on apointments over people who just heard they were good!

I am sick of having to explain why I cannot ring at 8:30am, and I am sick of being insulted. They start telling you to stop being rude to them if you say that you don't like how they're talking to you, and hang up!!

If you do get a nice receptionist, which is extremely rare, you might be offered a phone call from some doctor who tries to book you in with a nurse - who can't deal with the problem!!!

I am sick, and I am struggling to get help from people who should be giving it. All because I am to ill to ring at a stupidly early time.

I get told I should have a friend phone up for me, my friends work and can't even get apointments for themself. I cannot expect a single parent to take a day off work in the hope that they will be able to get me an apointment.

Today I stayed up all night so I could ring at 8:30am, out of desberation. I got through at 9:15am, and they told me all the apointments were gone and Ihave to ring at 8:30am tomorrow. When I told them I can't they said that theres nothing they can do I have to ring at that time or i'm not going to get an apointment.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Jason 1977 said on 09 June 2011

Hello, can anyone please give me some advice? I am a 34 year old man with breathing difficulties. I always considered my health to be satisfactory, albeit being unfit and a little out of shape. However, back in October, I noticed myself getting very wheezy and short of breath on exertion. I wasn't concerned at first, and put it down to being not very fit and getting older. I did notice my breathing getting a bit worse.
On Sunday April 17th I awoke in bed gasping for breath. Next day I attended my local GP and was prescribed an inhaler to see if it would help. It didn't, so I returned 3 days later and was given a steriod inhaler. This did not help either. All the time I am getting more breathless. May the 13th I returned to the health centre and my GP said it wasn't asthma, I was suffering from anxiety. I found this diagnosis strange, because the only reason I am a little anxious is because I am struggling to breathe. I have been to the hospital A & E and the health centre several times since and they still cannot find the underlying problem. I have had my chest listened to, a blood test done and I have had several resting ECG tests done. I have rang NHS direct several times and other helplines and I have been advised to explain the symptoms I have carefully to my GP, and its likely he would refer me for thourough examination by a cardiologist. This hasn't happened, and I really am suffering. The GPs' at the health centre do not seem to be taking me seriously, despite constantly struggling for breath. I cannot be properly diagnosed unless I get referred, and at this rate it might be too late. Can anyone offer any advice? It would be greatly appreciated.
Jason.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

notsurprized said on 18 February 2011

Can you tell me why it is that dentists who say they are taking on new patients. Are not taking on adult patients in my area ? I telephoned a dentist that advertised on your NHS web site they are taking new Patients, said they are not taking any Adults, and that go's for all the other detist's in my area. What is going on ? Are they just using the site for free advertising. Does this not come under miss information. I think it's disgusting. NHS web site is supposed to help us get a dentist.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

marshgrz said on 30 November 2010

Visiting Barnet hospital A&E dept, there was a long queue, but staff were busily making progress. however...
The loo was dirty, bins all full, not hygenic if blood tests etc are being taken just outside.
My time came around for doctor to see me - I had been there previously in April after road accident, but had no scans at the time and I must admit I left early to attend eco-event elsewhere even though I could not easily walk - there were alot of people waiting.
However, this time I had had 4 weeks of daily headache, new glasses helped only a little, previously I had mild concussion, so I wanted answers, and my flat neighbour's abuse of bass speakers might have only contributed.
The doctor gave me Co-Codamol tablets,said I had acute spondylitis, but no scan, brief test of blood and urine only but I did not really see why I should take poison as remedy when pressure in the skull can just as easily be caused by aneurism and go undetected.
Verdict - better response than local GP whoseemed to think I was making it all up, no pathogen detected at that level of expertise, but then it was an A&E dept and staff seemed generally good at their jobs.
But there was still that matter of hygiene.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

johnboy1950 said on 11 November 2010

I went to the hospital for a colonoscopy and ended up with a Perforated bowell,spending 2 days in ICU and 5 days on the ward,although they tell you it could happen,they also say its highly unlikely.i wrote a letter of complaint and the reply was that the colonoscopy was successfull,how can this be with a perforated bowell.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Rache1 said on 21 May 2010

My daughter who is severely mentally handicapped has been experiencing toothache for 6 months now.She has been prescribed 2 lots of antibiotics which made no difference and has been literally living on pain relievers.After visiting her dentist a month ago,an emergency was requested and to date she is still suffering and losing weight due to not being able to eat or drink properly.I have to live with her pain every single day!
Why does she have to have to put up with a sytem that causes her to suffer even longer than a person with all their wits about them?
I am at my wits end and cannot bear to see her go through another day and night in pain!!!!
The NHS dental service has been NOTHING but a diservice to her as there has been nothing but promises and so-called assurances that she would be seen to in an emergency situation.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Page last reviewed: 03/07/2014

Next review due: 03/07/2016