How do I make a complaint about an NHS service?

There is a simple two-stage process for complaints about NHS services.

Your NHS complaint: what to do first

Every NHS organisation has a complaints procedure. If you want to complain about an NHS service – such as a hospital, GP or dentist – ask the service for a copy of their complaints procedure, which will explain what you need to do.

You may make a complaint to either the organisation that provided your healthcare or the organisation that commissioned that service. The commissioning body will be either the local clinical commissioning group for hospital care, or NHS England for GP and dental services. 

You may choose to make a complaint in writing, by email or by speaking to them. If you speak to them, they may be able to resolve your concerns without you having to go through the formal complaints process.

This first stage is called local resolution. It aims to resolve complaints quickly, and most cases are resolved at this stage.

Time limit for NHS complaints

You should make your complaint as soon as possible. The time limit for a complaint is normally:

  • 12 months from the date the event happened, or
  • 12 months from the date you first became aware of it

PALS

You can get help and advice from PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Services), whose officers are available in most hospitals. They offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters to patients, their families and their carers.

NHS Complaints Independent Advocacy Service

From April 1 2013, individual local authorities have a legal duty to organise independent advocacy services to provide support for people who are making, or thinking of making, a complaint about their NHS care or treatment.

Contact your local PALS, complaints manager or local authority for information about how this service is provided in your area.

Citizens Advice Bureau

You can also get advice and support from your local Citizens Advice Bureau if you want to complain about the NHS, social services or local authorities. See their website for information on how to get advice from the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Other options for making a complaint

If you’re unhappy with the response to your complaint after local resolution, you can complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The ombudsman carries out independent investigations into complaints about government departments, their agencies and the NHS. You can call the ombudsman’s complaints helpline on 0345 015 4033 or see their website for more information about contacting the ombudsman.

You can also raise your concerns by contacting regulatory bodies, such as the Care Quality Commission.

For more information, see about NHS complaints.

Read the answers to more questions about NHS services and treatments.

Further information:

 

How to complain

If you're not happy with the care you've received in the NHS, you have the right to complain. Find out how to go about it.

Media last reviewed: 25/05/2012

Next review due: 25/05/2014

Page last reviewed: 03/04/2013

Next review due: 02/04/2015