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Complaining to the NHS in England and who to talk to

This page explains your rights as a patient or carer when complaining to the NHS in England. If you’re receiving healthcare from a privately-run clinic not managed by the NHS, you’ll need to contact it directly about their 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 advocacy service for more information.

When to complain and who to contact

Complaints should be made as soon after the event as possible, and must be made within 12 months 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.

If you don’t want to complain to your local service, then you can contact whichever organisation commissioned the services instead. Your local clinical commissioning group   should have a complaints manager who can help in relation to hospital treatments, emergency care or district nursing.

If you want to complain about a GP or dentist, contact NHS England  . NHS England will provide the findings of any investigation alongside an apology, if it’s at fault, and details of any internal changes made as a result.

Patient rights and response times

The NHS Constitution is a set of principles and values that guides the NHS in England, and it needs to follow these by law.

The Constitution states that you have the right to have any complaint acknowledged within three working days, and to have that complaint properly investigated. The results of an investigation are usually delivered within 20 days, unless a longer investigation is needed. In this case, you’ll be updated around every 20 days.

Contact your local patient advocacy service for more information.

Your rights as a carer

You don’t have any different rights as the representative of the person you’re looking after. However if you’re complaining about something that has affected you personally then the above applies.

If you’re not happy with the outcome

If you’re not happy, you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman  , which will look at your complaint and decide whether to investigate it. The Ombudsman is the final stage in the complaints process after you’ve complained to the NHS. You should normally refer your complaint to it within 12 months of becoming aware of the problem.

You’ll need to include the following information 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.

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.

In England, this work is done by the Care Quality Commission  .

Patient advice, liaison and advocacy

The following organisations were set up by the government to help patients understand their rights, and support them in the complaints procedure.

Contact the NHS Complaints Advocacy   or search for your local Patient Advice and Liaison Service   (PALS) for more information.

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

If you’ve had a medical accident, contact the charity Action against Medical Accidents   (AVMA) for advice on next steps, including compensation.

Citizens Advice   – England and Wales.

Law Society   – find a solicitor in England and Wales.

Legal Aid   – check eligibility in England and Wales.

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