Making a Complaint

You have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS care, treatment or service, and this is written into the NHS Constitution on GOV.UK.

The information on this page will guide you through the NHS complaints process, as well as the core requirements for NHS complaints handling.

The NHS encourages feedback because it’s used to improve services. If you wish to share your views and experiences, positive or negative, simply speak to a member of staff.

Many service providers have feedback forms available on their premises or websites. Sometimes the NHS will ask for your feedback.

If you’re unhappy with an NHS service, it’s often worthwhile discussing your concerns early on with the provider of the service, as they may be able to sort the issue out quickly.

Most problems can be dealt with at this stage, but in some cases you may feel more comfortable speaking to someone not directly involved in your care.

If you’re considering making a complaint but need help

Many issues can be resolved quickly by speaking directly to the staff at the place where you received care or accessed a service.

Some people find it helpful to talk to someone who understands the complaints process first and get some guidance and support.

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) is a free, confidential and independent service that you’ll find in most hospitals.

You can speak with a PALS member, who’ll try to help you resolve issues informally with the hospital before you need to make a complaint.

PALS can be particularly helpful if your issue is urgent and you need action immediately, such as a problem with the treatment or care you receive while in hospital.

If you’re making, or thinking about making, a complaint, you could get help from an NHS complaints advocate.

An advocate can help you to write a complaint letter and attend meetings with you, but cannot make the complaint for you or give medical or legal advice.

You can get advice from an NHS complaints advocate at any stage of the process. If you decide you need some support, it’s never too late to ask for help. Search online for ‘NHS complaints advocacy’ in your area.

Find out more about how to complain about NHS care on the VoiceAbility website

Healthwatch is an independent statutory body that helps make sure your feedback is listened to.

Find your local Healthwatch

Complaining about NHS services

Everyone who provides an NHS service in England must have their own complaints procedure.

You can often find information in waiting rooms, at reception, on the service provider’s website, or by asking a member of staff.

You can either complain to the NHS service provider directly (such as a GP, dentist surgery or hospital) or to the commissioner of the services, which is the body that pays for the NHS services you use. You cannot apply to both.

In the event of a complaint about more than one organisation – perhaps a complaint that includes issues about your GP, local hospital and ambulance service – you’ll only need to make one complaint.

The organisation that receives your complaint must co-operate with the others to ensure you receive a co-ordinated response.

Contact your local integrated care board (ICB) for complaints about primary care services (GPs, dentists, opticians or pharmacists) and secondary care, such as hospital care, mental health services, out-of-hours services, NHS 111 and community services like district nursing.

Every ICB will have its own complaints procedure, which is often displayed on its website.

How do I find the commissioner?

Find your local integrated care board (ICB)

Contact NHS England for complaints about healthcare in prison, military health services, and specialised services that support people with a range of rare and complex conditions.

Find out about complaining to NHS England

Contact your local council if your complaint is about public health organisations, which provide services that prevent disease, promote health and prolong life.

Find your local council on GOV.UK

Complaining about adult social care services

If you’re unhappy with a social care service, care home or home care and you’re paying for your own care, you may want to speak to the service provider first.

But if you want to make a complaint, the organisations that provide these services will have their own complaints arrangements.

If your care is funded or arranged by your local council, you may wish to raise the issues with the care provider in the first instance.

If you’d prefer not to do that, you can raise your concerns directly with your local council.

Find your local council on GOV.UK

Complaining about the use of the Mental Health Act

If you wish to make a complaint about a mental health service, you should either contact the service provider or the local ICB.

But if you wish to complain about the use of the Mental Health Act on someone detained in hospital or put on a guardianship or under a community treatment order, complain to the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Find out how to complain about the use of the Mental Health Act on the CQC website

Making a Complaint

Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of an incident or of it coming to your attention.

This time limit can be extended provided you have good reasons for not making the complaint sooner and it’s possible to complete a fair investigation.

This will be a decision taken by the complaints manager in discussion with you.

You can make a complaint verbally, in writing or online (by clicking on the admin tab of the following access link use accuRx). If you make your complaint verbally, a record of your complaint will be made and you’ll be provided with a written copy.

If you’re complaining on behalf of someone else, include their written consent with your letter (if you’re making your complaint in writing) as this will speed up the process.

If the person cannot give their consent, for example, if they have died or lack mental capacity, or are a child who cannot complain for themselves, you may be able to complain for them.

If you need advice or would like support, find out more about NHS complaints advocacy on the VoiceAbility website.

What to Expect

You should expect an acknowledgement and the offer of a discussion about the handling of your complaint within 3 working days of receiving your complaint.

If you accept, the discussion will cover the period within which a response to your complaint is likely to be sent.

There’s no set timeframe, and this will depend on the nature of your complaint.

If, in the end, the response is delayed for any reason, you should be kept informed.

Once your complaint has been investigated, you’ll receive a written response.

The response should set out the findings and, where appropriate, provide apologies and information about what’s being done as a result of your complaint.

It should also include information about how the complaint has been handled and details of your right to take your complaint to the relevant ombudsman.

If you’re not happy with the outcome

If your problem persists or you’re not happy with the way your complaint has been dealt with locally, you can complain to the relevant ombudsman.


If you’ve reached the end of the complaints process and are not happy with the organisation’s final decision, you have the right to bring your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to look at.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England. This organisation is independent of the NHS.

For more information, call their helpline on 0345 015 4033 or visit the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website.

Social care

You have the right to take your complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO), which is independent of local authorities and care providers.

For more information, call their helpline on 0300 061 0614 or visit the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman website.