Hospital Complaints

How to make a complaint regarding hospital treatment

If you are unhappy with the medical treatment that you or others have received from a hospital, doctor, dentist or any other NHS service, then you can make a complaint about it. The NHS Complaints Procedure will not be used for instigating disciplinary action against any member of staff although this could be the result of the complaint.

Hospital treatment failures - Medical negligence claims advice

Making a complaint may provide explanations for you and highlight problem areas for the organisation. Complaining about your medical treatment will not affect your entitlement to future care.

Making a complaint can be a complicated and lengthy process. There are organisations that can help you:

  • The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) - Nearly all Trusts have a PALS department. They provide information, advice and support to patients and their families. They can also help to raise your concerns informally. More details at
  • As of April 2013, local authorities are responsible for commissioning independent NHS Complaints Advocacy services. Advocacy services can help you to write letters; prepare you for and support you at meetings; explain the options available to you and contact third parties for you.

Making an NHS Complaint

The NHS complaints procedure has two stages:

1. Local Resolution

You tell the people responsible for the service that you wish to make a complaint. You have 12 months from the incident to make a complaint. This can be extended if there are good reasons; however this is up to the discretion of the healthcare provider.

Who should you complain to? For GP’s, dentists, opticians and health centre workers, this is the Practice Manager. If you wish to complain about a hospital or ambulance service then contact the Complaints Manager or Chief Executive of the Trust.

You can complain via letter or in person. There are no limits on how long the Healthcare provider can take to deal with compliant.

Your complaint is investigated and then there may be a meeting. Once the investigation is finished you will receive a letter containing the summary of your complaint, what the investigation found and details of the next stage.

If you remain unhappy with the reply from the Complaints Manager then you could take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

2. The Health Service Ombudsman

If your complaint could not be resolved during Local Resolution or you are unhappy with your response, you have the right to appeal to the Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is independent of the NHS and the Government.

The Ombudsman will not usually investigate a complaint where an NHS provider or practitioner has done all that they reasonably could to put things right or where you just do not agree with a decision by the NHS provider and there is no evidence as to why the decision is wrong.

You must submit your complaint to the Ombudsman no later than 12 months after the date of the event you are complaining about. A member of the Ombudsman’s staff will assess your case and review all the documentation involved. This investigation may last for months. A detailed report will be sent to all the parties involved and the Secretary of State for Health.

If you remain unhappy with the Ombudsman’s conclusion you may ask them to review your concerns again. This will not be an in-depth review. There is no appeal after the second review and then the NHS procedure has come to an end.

Making a complaint regarding Private Medical Treatment

There are no rules relating to complaints within the private sector. They are usually dealt with in accordance with the in-house complaints system of the organisation.

If you are unhappy with private treatment you should complain directly to the healthcare professional or hospital either verbally or in writing to the person responsible for managing complaints.

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David Thomas
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