NHS Complaints policy

If you are unhappy with the treatment or service you have received from the NHS you are entitled to make a complaint, have it considered, and receive a response from the NHS organisation or primary care practitioner concerned. The NHS complaints procedure described below applies to the NHS in England, except for NHS Foundation Trusts.

A Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) has been established in every NHS Trust. 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.

Local Resolution

The NHS complaints procedure covers complaints made by a person about any matter connected with the provision of NHS services by NHS organisations or primary care practitioners (GPs, dentists, opticians and pharmacists). The procedure also covers services provided overseas or by the private sector where the NHS has paid for them.

Who can complain?

A complaint can be made by a patient or person affected or likely to be affected by the actions or decisions of a NHS organisation or primary care practitioner. A complaint can also be made by someone acting on behalf of the patient or person, with their consent.

What is the time limit for making a complaint?

You should normally complain within 6 months of the event(s) concerned or within 6 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.

To whom should I complain initially?

The first stage of the NHS complaints procedure is ‘Local Resolution’. Your complaint should be made in the first instance to the organisation or primary care practitioner providing the service. Local resolution aims to resolve complaints quickly and as close to the source of the complaint as possible using the most appropriate means; for example, use of conciliation.

You can raise your concerns immediately by speaking to a member of staff (e.g. doctor, nurse, dentist, GP or practice manager) or someone else, e.g. the PALS. They may be able to resolve your concerns without the need to make a more formal complaint.

However, if you do want to continue with your complaint you can do this orally or by writing (including e-mail) to the primary care practitioner or the NHS organisation concerned. If you make your complaint orally a written record should be made by the complaints manager.

You should receive a response from a primary care practitioner within 10 working days or from the chief executive of the NHS organisation concerned within 25 working days, though this deadline can be extended with your agreement. You should be kept informed of progress if this is not going to happen.

NHS Foundation Trusts

NHS Foundation Trusts will have their own systems for the internal handling of complaints, which may differ from the ‘local resolution’ process described here. If you have a complaint about an NHS Foundation Trust, you should contact it for advice on how to make your complaint. .

Complaints about both healthcare and social care

If you have a complaint about your healthcare or social care, you can complain to either the local NHS or social care organisation and they will ensure either that they respond to your complaint themselves or that it is sent to the right organisation (with your permission). If your complaint covers both NHS and social care, the organisations will work together to respond to your concerns.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

If you are unhappy with the response to your complaint, including a complaint about an NHS Foundation Trust, you can ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to review your case. The Ombudsman’s role is to consider complaints that government departments, a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England, have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service.

Contact the Ombudsman as follows:

Tel: 0345 015 4033
E-mail: phso.enquiries@ombudsman.org.uk
Website: www.ombudsman.org.uk

Where can I get further advice and help?

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service or Complaints manager at the NHS organisation you are complaining about can provide advice, including about local independent complaints advocacy services.

• The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS) provides advice and support to people who want to complain about the NHS. Details can be found here.

• Call NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

• The Department of Health’s website also has information on the NHS complaints procedure – www.dh.gov.uk