How to make a complaint about an NHS service

How to make a complaint about an NHS service - flowchartRaising your concerns

If you are receiving an NHS service from any provider and are unhappy with the treatment or care that you receive, you can speak to the service directly and talk to them about your experience.

An NHS service might be from:

  • a hospital
  • GP
  • dentist
  • optician
  • NHS funded community service
  • NHS pharmacy
  • ambulance service or paramedic

Your NHS Trust will have a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (known as PALS). They are there to give you advice, support and information on health-related matters. You can find your local PALS team by searching on the NHS Choices website, or by asking your GP or hospital for their contact details.

You might find that they can help to resolve the matter with you immediately.

You can raise concerns or pursue a complaint on behalf of someone else, such as a friend or relative, if they are unable to do so themselves.

I want to make a formal complaint

You might not feel comfortable raising your concerns directly. Or, you might not be satisfied with the response you get from the service. In this case you might decide to make a formal complaint.

All NHS organisations will have a complaints procedure which will explain what you need to do.

Our Guide to raising concerns will help you. You can get this information in Easy Read, Large Print and in number of community languages.

You can contact our NHS Advocacy Helpline on 0300 330 5454 at any point in your complaint process, if you want support or information.

Who do I complain to?

If your complaint is about:

  • a hospital, you will need to make your complaint to the Chief executive of the NHS Trust
  • a GP, Dentist or Pharmacist, you will need to make a complaint to the Practice Manager
  • community NHS services, such as District Nursing, Podiatry, or Chiropody you will need to complain to the appropriate NHS Trust

The NHS complaints procedure focuses on resolving your complaint directly with the service. This is called local resolution.

Alternatively, you can choose to complain to the Commissioner of the service (the organisation that pays for the service). This may be the local Clinical Commissioning Group or NHS England.

You can find details about your local Clinical Commissioning Groups in NHS England’s CCG Directory. You can make a complaint to NHS England by email, for the attention of the Complaints Team, at

You cannot ask both the NHS Trust or Practice Manager and the Commissioner to investigate your complaint.

Timescale for making a complaint

It is best if you make your complaint as soon as you can. Then the service can take steps to put things right straight away. If you’re not able to make your complaint right away, you must make one within twelve months of the incident or event, or twelve months from the date that you first became aware of it.

What happens to my complaint?

If you talk to someone about your concerns, they should write down your conversation and keep it for their records. They should send you a copy of the discussion for your own record.

You should receive an acknowledgement from the NHS service within three working days. Remember that if you send in your complaint, the three days starts from the day that they receive it.

If an investigation is needed, this is usually completed within 20 days and if it is likely to take longer than this, you should be informed. A formal response will be made to you after the investigation.

I think I can make a complaint myself. What do I do now?

You can download our self help pack. This gives you all the information you need to make a complaint to your NHS service.

Useful contacts  can be found in your Local Service pages under the Get Advocacy Support section of the website.

Contact our NHS Advocacy Helpline on 0300 330 5454 at any point in your complaint process, if you want support or information.

I’m not happy with the response I got from the NHS service

head in handsIf you’re not happy with the results of your complaint, you could continue to work on the issue with the NHS service concerned until you get a resolution that is favourable to you.

If you’re still not satisfied, you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will investigate your complaint and work to put things right where they can. They will share lessons learned to improve NHS services.

Read more about the Parliamentary Health Service Ombudsman here.