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Making a complaint to the NHS in Scotland

This page explains your rights as a patient or carer when complaining to the NHS in Scotland. If you’re receiving healthcare from a privately-run clinic not managed by the NHS, you’ll need to contact it directly about the complaints procedure.

All public health bodies have certain rules and regulations that they need to follow by law, including for complaints. Contact your local Patient Advice and Support Service   (PASS) for more information.

When to complain and who to contact

Complaints should be made within one year of the incident. This timeframe can sometimes be extended if you have a good enough reason. For example, the incident might have left you traumatised or unable to complain sooner. It must still be possible to investigate the complaint.

To begin, find the local NHS board in your area   and get the correct contact name before writing your complaint. This will save you from having your complaint passed between too many different people. A list of people responsible for dealing with complaints can be found on the NHS Inform website  .

Patient rights and response times

You have the right to an acknowledgement within three days, but it can take up to 20 days for a formal response. Details of the Patient Rights Scotland (2011) Act can be found here  .

If you’re not happy with the outcome

If you’re not happy with the response, you can take your complaint to the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), which will look at your complaint and decide whether to investigate it. The SPSO is a free and independent service set up to look into complaints about public services in Scotland, including complaints about the NHS  .

You’ll need to include the following details alongside the facts of the complaint:

  • All your personal details including contact phone number and address.
  • Name and location of anyone who’s dealt with your complaint to date.
  • Outcome of previous complaints and why you believe they’re unjust.

Keep copies of everything you post and note down when it was sent.

You might also find the leaflet How to complain to the SPSO   useful (PDF).

Organisations that can help

Healthcare regulators

The role of the regulator is to monitor all the health and social care professionals practising in the UK, whether private or NHS-funded. It makes sure that doctors, GPs, dentists and other care professionals are meeting national standards.

There are 12 regulators working in the UK. Each is responsible for a different health or care profession. You can find the most up to date contact details on the General Medical Council website  .

Patient advice, liaison and advocacy

The following service was set up by the Scottish Government to help people know more about their rights and responsibilities as patients. The service provides information, advice and support to people who want to give feedback, make comments, raise concerns or make a complaint about treatment and care provided by the NHS. The service is delivered by Citizens Advice in Scotland.

Search for your local Patient Advice and Support Service   (PASS) to find out more.

Reporting professional misconduct

The Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) is a register of accredited medical practitioners in the UK working in 16 industries, including occupational therapists and dieticians. Its website   has a detailed guide to reporting someone on the HCPC register if you suspect them of professional misconduct.

If you want to report a nurse, contact the Nursing and Midwifery Council  .

If you want to report a doctor, contact the General Medical Council  .

Legal advice and compensation

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