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Making a complaint

Taking legal action and other forms of complaint

Most complaints about the NHS are resolved locally through the NHS complaints procedure. This page explains your options if you wish to complain about a national service or regulator, and has information on legal action and judicial reviews.

Take legal action 

In some cases, you might consider taking legal action against the NHS or a member of staff, and claiming compensation. Taking legal action against an NHS body or any local authority can be long, costly and complex. It's therefore best to have a solicitor.

If you've been harmed as a result of negligence by an NHS organisation or healthcare professional, you may be able to claim compensation. If you decide to pursue a claim, seek legal advice.

The charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)  provides free specialist advice on legal action, inquests and other procedures when harm may have been caused. Specially trained advisers will help you consider the options available to you after suffering a medical accident. If you wish, they can put you in contact with an accredited specialist solicitor. AvMA also offers support to help patients come to terms with the effects of a medical accident, whether or not clinical negligence is involved.

The Citizens Advice Bureau offers comprehensive guidance on taking legal action, how to find a solicitor, and the costs involved.

The NHS Litigation Authority (NHSLA) acts on behalf of NHS organisations when negligence claims are made against them. It can't offer advice to individual patients, but the NHSLA website guides you through the practicalities of negligence claims.

The NHSLA participates in mediation and alternative dispute resolution.  

Apply for a judicial review

A judicial review is a procedure that enables you to challenge a decision of an NHS body or the secretary of state for health on the basis that it's unlawful.

A decision might be unlawful if:

  • the decision-maker does not have power to make the decision, or is using their power improperly
  • the decision is irrational
  • the procedure followed by the decision-maker was unfair or biased
  • the decision was in breach of the Human Rights Act
  • the decision breaches European Community (EC) law

More information is available from the Public Law Project.

Judicial review is not a form of appeal. The judge will look at how decisions are made, rather than judging the decision itself.

To be entitled to make a claim for judicial review, you must have a direct, personal interest in the action or decision being challenged. Further guidance on applying for judicial review can be found on the Justice website.


Complain about NHS England

NHS England commissions, plans and pays for primary care services you receive, such as your GP practice, dentists, pharmacists, optical services and some specialised services.

You can make a complaint about an NHS service to NHS England as part of the NHS complaints procedure or make a complaint about NHS England itself.

If you wish to make a complaint about NHS England, write to:

NHS England 
PO Box 16738
B97 9PT

Alternatively, you can email adding ‘For the attention of the complaints manager’ in the subject line.

You can also phone NHS England on 0300 311 22 33 (Monday to Friday 8am to 6pm, excluding Bank Holidays)

For more advice visit the complaints section on NHS England’s website.

Complain to the Care Quality Commission

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and social care in England. It also protects the interests of people detained under the Mental Health Act.

See the CQC website for more advice on:

To complain about NHS services follow the NHS complaints procedure. The CQC cannot take up individual complaints about the NHS.

If you wish to complain to the Care Quality Commission, its details are:

CQC National Customer Service Centre
Newcastle upon Tyne

  • Phone: 03000 61 61 61
  • Email: Opening hours: 8.30am – 5:30pm, Monday to Friday

You can also download the leaflet Complaining about the CQC (PDF, 907kb).

Complain about NHS foundation trusts

NHS foundation trusts are hospital or mental health trusts that have been given more independence about the way they're run and funded. Foundation trusts are regulated by Monitor. Monitor has powers to intervene in the running of an NHS foundation trust to safeguard NHS patients and services.

To complain about a foundation trust, follow the NHS complaints procedure first.

You can complain or comment about Monitor by writing to:

Complain about other special health authorities

Blood and transplant services, the regulation of medicines, and decisions about what treatments should be used are run by organisations across the NHS nationally. If you have a complaint about these services, contact the relevant authority. For example:

The NHS Blood and Transplant Authority is responsible for the safety and supply of blood, plasma, organs and tissues across the NHS. Complaints can be addressed to:

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) ensures that medicines and healthcare products work and are acceptably safe. You can notify the MHRA if you suspect that you've had an adverse reaction to a drug, a blood product, or an adverse incident with a healthcare product.

If you have a complaint about the work of the MHRA itself, follow the guidance on the MHRA website.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) produces national guidance on which drugs and treatments work, and are cost effective, as well as guidance on promoting good health.

To complain about the work of NICE, email or phone
+44 (0)845 003 7780.

Complain about the Department of Health

The Department of Health has its own complaints procedure which you can look up on GOV.UK. Here you will also find information about how your complaint is processed or what information you need to submit with your complaint.

Page last reviewed: 03/07/2014

Next review due: 03/07/2016

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