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Explains what you can do if you experience a problem with the health or social care you receive or think you should have received.
Broadly, there are three steps you can take to address your problem. These are:
It’s usually best to try these in this order, since it's much easier to solve something informally or through a formal complaint than by making a legal challenge. Often you must have tried the first two steps before you can make a legal challenge anyway.
If you have found that you have a problem with your health or social care, you should first try to speak to the provider informally. This can be a much easier and less stressful way to get your problem solved, and it is often the quickest too.
Here are some tips for speaking to someone informally about your problem:
If you've already tried speaking to someone informally, and that didn't work, you can look at making a formal complaint.
You can make a formal complaint in any of these ways:
You should try to write down your complaint if you can, or get someone to help you do this. This way, you can make sure everything you want in your complaint is included. If you want to, you could also get some support when making a complaint.
If your complaint is about a particular professional, you might also want to make a complaint to the organisation that regulates that person.
Generally, if you make a complaint, you should expect:
Here is some more information on what to expect depending on where you make your complaint:
In Wales, what you might expect following a formal complaint is different depending on whether it's about social care or health care.
In England, if you make a formal complaint about health or social care, you should expect your complaint to be acknowledged within three working days from when it’s received (orally or in writing).
When it’s acknowledged, you should be told:
If you don’t feel like your formal complaint has been dealt with effectively, you can make a complaint to the ombudsman. This is the next step for trying to get your complaint resolved.
Separately, you could also approach a health or social care regulator, or a professional regulator if your complaint is about an individual. These won't solve your complaint but may inform the regulator's decision to investigate that organisation or person.
You may also be able to make a legal challenge, although the rules and timelines around this are very strict.
This information was published in May 2017. We will revise it in 2019.
References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.