How do I make a complaint?
Tell the service about the problem
The first step is to tell the healthcare service informally that you are having a problem. For example, if you are having a problem with a GP surgery, this might mean speaking to the practice manager.
It’s important to think about what would help you to feel comfortable and confident when explaining your problem. Would it help you if:
- you had someone with you for emotional support?
- you had someone else to speak on your behalf?
- you wrote down a list of points to cover to ensure don’t you forget anything?
- you spoke to the service through email or letter than in person?
- you could discuss the problem in a private room where your privacy is protected?
You can find useful information about talking to your GP surgery on our page about common healthcare issues.
if the problem is not resolved, consider getting support with making a complaint
If you aren’t able to get the problem resolved, or if you want it to be on record, you can use a formal complaint process. Going through the process of making a complaint can be draining. It’s a good idea to get help at this stage, or to ask someone else to lodge the complaint on your behalf, particularly if you’ve not been through the process before. You can find information about services that can help with your complaint further down this page.
make a formal complaint
All NHS healthcare services have a system for handling official complaints. You can normally find information about how to make complaint on their website. If you aren’t able to find this information on their website, ask staff at the service how to make a formal complaint.
For example, if your complaint is about how you were treated at a GP surgery, your GP surgery should provide information on how to do this on their website. If this information is not available, contact the surgery and ask to speak to the practice manager.
file a formal complaint at a higher level
There are guides on how to do this on the websites of the national healthcare organisations for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and the Welsh Government website.
If your complaint is about a specific person who has behaved inappropriately you can complain to the professional body for doctors and surgeons or nurses.
In all parts of the UK, you can also complain about data protection issues to the Information Commissioners Office. You might want to do this if private information about you or your health conditions has been shared with someone who should not have access to it.
if you’re unhappy with the response, complain to the ombudsman
There is information about how to do this on the website of each national ombudsman: in England the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, in NI the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman, in Scotland the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman, and in Wales the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.
It is important to consider making a complaint quickly as some nations have time limits after which your complaint will not be accepted.
Where can I get support with making a complaint?
You can get free support to make your complaint if you are trans:
- in London, people over 18 can access the Spectra Trans Health Advocacy Service
- in Manchester and Greater Manchester, people over 16 can access the LGBT Foundation Trans Advocacy service
- in other areas local LGBT+ organisations may also provide support
There is also free support for making a complaint available to anyone in the UK:
- in England find your local Healthwatch using their search tool. The website for your local Healthwatch will normally include information about where you can get support locally for making a complaint, which is often provided by an independent organisation like POhWER or VoiceAbility. You can also contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service for help with making a complaint.
- in Northern Ireland speak to the Patient and Client Council Complaints Support Service
- in Scotland speak to the Patient Advice and Support Service
- in Wales to your local Community Health Council
If your complaint relates to mental health services you may be able to get support from your local branch of Mind.
To get information and ask questions about the complaints process you can also contact the Patient’s Association helpline.
How do I request my medical records?
If you think it might be helpful to know what has been written in your medical records, you have a legal right to ask for this information. You can find out how to get access to your medical records on these pages about the process in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
Where can I learn more?
There is a detailed guide to making a complaint about UK healthcare on the Patient’s Association website.
You can read more about how the complaints process works in each UK nation in these resources for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales.
We have more information about UK medical services on these pages:
- How to use medical services
- List of UK services
- Choosing a service
- How to get a referral
- Wait times
- First appointments
- Surgical consultations
- Speech therapy
- Dealing with problems
- Updating NHS records
- Accessing HRT without a diagnosis
- Blood testing
- Self-injection safety
- Gamete storage
- Private fees
- Private surgery
Errors and omissions
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