Complaining about health and social care

Explains what you can do if you experience a problem with the health or social care you receive or think you should have received. Applies to England and Wales.

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Legal challenge

How do I make a legal challenge?

If you're not able to resolve your problem by making a formal complaint, or complaining to the ombudsman, you might want to make a legal challenge. You can speak to a solicitor about your chances of success of doing this.

Although legal challenges can be stressful, you might decide that it's worth it to solve your problem, and sometimes a legal challenge is the only way you can do that.

A legal challenge can include:

What is a judicial review?

A judicial review is a legal challenge to the way a public authority has made a decision or has done or not done something lawfully. You will usually need to have made a complaint first, although this is not always the case.

The judge will look at whether the public authority has followed its public sector equality duty and its human rights duties, as well as other duties it owes (for more information, see our pages on the Human Rights Act).

If the judge decides that the public authority has not acted lawfully, it can:

  • cancel the public authority's decision
  • order the public authority to do something, or
  • order the public authority to not do something

Before you bring a claim for judicial review, you have to:

  • get permission from the High Court
  • make an application within the time limits, which are very strict: you have to do this as soon as possible and at the very latest within three months less one day of when the public authority made the decision you want to challenge

You will need to get advice from a legal adviser who specialises in public law before asking for a judicial review.

What is clinical negligence?

A clinical negligence claim is when you make a claim for compensation because the care you received from a professional was negligent.

This sort of claim can get you compensation for your loss caused by the medical or care professional, but won’t force the care provider to change its practices. You will need to get legal advice about making this sort of claim.

For more information, see our pages on clinical negligence.

How do I speak to a solicitor?

If you decide you want to make a legal challenge, you should get legal advice. You can do this by getting in touch with a solicitor qualified in the area of law this relates to. This could be:

  • mental health law
  • health care law
  • public law
  • community care law
  • clinical negligence
  • human rights law

If you are not sure what area of law applies to your situation, a solicitor will be able to tell you whether they are the right person to speak to. If they are not the right person, they may be able to suggest a different solicitor who works in the area of law relevant to you.

How do I find a solicitor?

You can get in touch with a solicitor by using the Law Society's find a solicitor tool or by calling them. You can ask for a solicitor based on what area of law they specialise in, and where they are located.

See Useful contacts for details on how to get in touch with the Law Society.


This information was published in May 2017. We will revise it in 2019.


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