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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.


Some people might experience a problem with the health or social care they receive, either during the course of their care, or before or after it. If this happens to you, there are some useful steps you can take to try to improve your situation.

Quick facts

  • If you want to make a complaint about care or treatment you receive, or think you should have received, firstly it's important to work out whether the complaint is about health care or social care, who is making the complaint, and who you make your complaint to. (If your complaint is about being detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, the complaints process might be slightly different.)
  • You should try to make your complaint as soon as possible after the event happened – usually the time limit is 12 months from when the event happened, or you first became aware of it.
  • To make a complaint, there are three steps you can take: speak to someone informally, make a formal complaint, make a legal challenge. 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.
  • You can also make a complaint to the health and social care regulators. These are organisations set up to protect the public so that whenever you see a health or social care professional, you can be confident that they are of a professional standard.
  • If you want to complain about private health or social care you have received, you won't be able to use the NHS complaints system (unless the NHS commissioned the private service on your behalf and are paying for it). In this case, you will need to find out the specific complaints procedure of your private provider and follow it.
  • Making a complaint can be stressful, so you might want to have extra support, advice or information. There are lots of organisations that provide advice and advocacy services that you could get in touch with.

This information was published in May 2017.

This page is currently under review. All content was accurate when published. 

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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