Support . Empower . Advocate . Promote

     The NHS Complaints Procedure

The NHS Complaints Procedure exists to:

  • Enable you to make a complaint.
  • Ensure your complaint is dealt with efficiently and is properly investigated.
  • Allow the NHS to learn from the experience of patients.

Who can complain?

You can complain about any NHS service you have received and are unhappy about. Anyone who is affected, or likely to be affected by the action, omission or decision of an NHS organisation can make a complaint.

You can complain for a friend or relative as long as they agree, in writing, to let you complain on their behalf. You do not need written permission if:

  • The person is very ill, or does not have the capacity to give permission because of an impairment or a disability.
  • Your friend or relative has died.

Young persons (under age 18) are entitled to complain independently. The NHS cannot consider a complaint made on behalf of a young person unless they are sure that the young person is unable to complain themselves.

Find out more about our approach to consent and confidentiality here.

Are there time limits for making a complaint?

You should make your complaint within 12 months of the you are complaining about, or within 12 months of you realising you had something to complain about. The NHS can use their discretion to look at complaints that are outside of these timescales.

Limits of the NHS Complaints Procedure

There are limits to what can be achieved using the NHS Complaints Procedure. For example the Procedure cannot be used for:

Financial compensation for clinical negligence - This is usually possible only through legal action. You will need to speak to a specialist medical or clinical negligence solicitor, preferably within 3 years of the incident.

You can obtain details about accessing specialist solicitors by contacting Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) or the Law Society.

Disciplinary action against any NHS staff member - However, this could happen under a separate procedure as the result of an investigation into a complaint.

Social Services complaints - There is a separate complaints procedure for Social Services. Health Complaints Advocacy can only help with NHS complaints but we can give you advice and guidance on where to get help with a  complaint that involves a non-NHS organisation.

The NHS Complaints Procedure has two stages: Local Resolution and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Find out more about each stage:

Stage One - Local Resolution

Stage Two - The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)

Continuing Health Care (CHC) Health Complaints

seAp may be able to help you with a complaint aboout the CHC process if you are concerned that a process has not been carried out correctly. Please see our CHC Complaints Factsheet below.


Download our CHC Factsheet


“Health Complaints Advocacy was invaluable to me. My advocate was just excellent, she got  answers where the ordinary ‘joe public’ couldn't."


"My advocate had very good interpersonal skills and was appropriately warm and professional.”



Featured case study

Read Francesca's story...