NHS complaints response times
On 3 February 2021, NHS England and NHS Improvement acknowledged that NHS providers may take longer than usual to investigate and respond to complaints. This is to allow providers to concentrate on front-line duties and responsiveness to coronavirus (COVID-19) as well as support the roll out of the vaccination programme.
For more information, see our frequently asked questions.
We also have Information and FAQs for providers.
Most NHS care and treatment goes well but sometimes things can go wrong. If you are unhappy with your care or the service you have received, it is important to let us know so we can improve. There are two ways to tell the NHS what you think:
Feedback helps us improve the quality of your care.
You can give good or bad feedback by telling the NHS organisation or service about it. For example, you can do this through the Friends and Family Test or you can speak to a member of staff. Other ways to give feedback should be clearly displayed at the service you visit.
If you are unhappy with an NHS service, it is worthwhile discussing your concerns early on with the service, as they may be able to sort the issue out quickly. Most problems can be dealt with at this stage but, in some cases, you may feel more comfortable speaking to someone not directly involved in your care.
When making a complaint, you can choose to complain to either of the following:
The healthcare provider
This is the organisation where you received the NHS service, for example your hospital, GP surgery or dental surgery.
This is the organisation that pays for the service or care you received. This will vary depending on the NHS service you are complaining about.
- If your complaint is about primary care services such as GPs, dentists, opticians or pharmacy services, contact NHS England.
- If your complaint is about services such as hospital care, mental health services, out of hours services and community services such as district nursing, contact your local clinical commissioning group (CCG)
- If your complaint is about public health organisations (those who provide services which prevent disease, promote health and prolong life), contact your local council
- If you wish to give feedback regarding the service you received from NHS 111 or make a complaint, please contact us via email: email@example.com and tell us the location you called from when contacting NHS 111. This will allow us to identify which local service took the call and provide contact details.
Complaining to the commissioner may be the right option if you are not comfortable complaining directly to your healthcare provider, or if you feel this is not appropriate. Please note: if you have already complained to your healthcare provider, the commissioner will not be able to re-investigate the same concerns. If you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you may wish to go to the next stage of the NHS complaints procedure.
Making your complaint
You can complain in writing, by email or by speaking to someone in the organisation. You should make your complaint within 12 months of the incident or within 12 months of the matter coming to your attention. This time limit can sometimes be extended as long as it is still possible to investigate your complaint.
Anyone can complain, including young people. A family member, carer, friend or your local MP can complain on your behalf with your permission.
What can I expect if I complain?
- have your complaint acknowledged and properly looked into
- be kept informed of progress and told the outcome
- be treated fairly, politely and with respect
- be reassured that your care and treatment will not be affected as a result of making a complaint
- be offered the opportunity to discuss the complaint with a complaints manager
- expect appropriate action to be taken following your complaint
Can I get help to make my complaint?
If you feel you would like help to make your complaint support is available. Some people may decide not to make a complaint because they are put off by the process, find it confusing or believe nothing will happen. If you are thinking about making a complaint it is important to know that you have access to local advocacy to help you make your complaint and provide support throughout the complaints process.
An NHS Complaints Advocate is independent of the NHS and may help you write a letter, attend a meeting with you or explain the options available to you. This service is free to anyone making a complaint about their NHS treatment or care.
How do I find a complaints advocate?
Your local Healthwatch can help you find independent NHS complaints advocacy services in your area.
You can also contact social services at your local council and ask about advocacy services. Find your local social services.
POhWER is a charity that helps people to be involved in decisions being made about their care. Call POhWER’s support centre on 0300 456 2370 for advice.
The Advocacy People gives advocacy support. Call 0330 440 9000 for advice or text PEOPLE to 80800 and someone will get back to you.
Age UK may have advocates in your area. Visit their website or call 0800 055 6112.
Supporting people with a learning disability or autism
NHS England, the health, local government and social care Ombudsman services and others are leading a project called Ask Listen Do. This is about making it easier to give feedback, raise a concern or complain if you or someone you support has a learning disability, autism or both.
The Ask Listen Do webpages include information and films for autistic people and people with a learning disability, as well as families and organisations in health, social care and education.
The NHS Constitution
The NHS Constitution sets out your rights as a patient, and explains the commitments the NHS has made to providing you with a high quality service. Organisations providing NHS care must take account of the NHS Constitution when treating you, so you may find it helpful to refer to it if you are thinking about making a complaint.
If you are not happy with the way your complaint has been dealt with and would like to take the matter further, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) which makes final decisions on unresolved complaints about the NHS in England. It is an independent service which is free for everyone to use.
To take your complaint to the Ombudsman, visit the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website or call 0345 015 4033.
Public Health Services Complaints
For public health services complaints, contact the Local Government Ombudsman.