Health Service complaints

The role of the NHS is to:

  • promote good health
  • prevent ill health
  • diagnose and treat injury and disease
  • care for those with long-term illness and disability.

The NHS Constitution sets out sets out rights to which patients, public and staff are entitled, and pledges that the NHS in England is committed to achieving..  For example, you have the right to be registered with a GP and a right to have access to your own health records. 

How do I complain about the National Health Service?

You will need to make your complaint to your local hospital, clinic or surgery. You can ask them for a complaints leaflet that will have the details. Most complaints can be resolved quickly in this way.

All NHS Hospital Trusts also have complaints managers. A Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) has been established in every NHS Trust and primary care trust (PCT). PALS are not part of the complaints procedure itself but they might be able to resolve your concerns informally or can tell you more about the complaints procedure and independent complaints advocacy services.

You should normally complain within six months of the event(s) concerned or within six months of becoming aware that you have something to complain about. Primary care practitioners and complaints managers in NHS organisations have discretion to waive this time limit if there are good reasons why you could not complain earlier.

The first step is to contact the local organisation with which you are unhappy to  seek local resolution of your complaint. If you are still unhappy, you can ask for an independent review to take place.

There is more information about advocacy and support on our Health Services web page

Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The CQC monitors, regulates and inspects many health care services to ensure that they meet quality and safety standards. This includes hospitals, doctors / GPs, dentists and mental health services.

You can complain about a service or provider if you're still unhappy after following their complaints procedure.

You can also find out more about how to report concerns about services on their website.

How do I complain to the Health Service Ombudsman?

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman will not normally become involved unless you have taken up your complaint officially and are still unhappy.

They make final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS in England.

You can complain to the ombudsman if you believe there has been injustice or hardship because an organisation has not acted properly or fairly or has given you a poor service and not put things right.

For example

  •     it took too long to deal with your complaint locally
  •     you were unreasonably refused a panel review
  •     you did not get a satisfactory answer to your complaint