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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Regulator

When would I tell a health or social care regulator about my complaint?

If you are making a formal complaint or complaining to the ombudsman, you can also tell your health or social care regulator about your issue (see our flowchart).

Telling a regulator about a health or social care issue you've had won't solve your individual complaint, but it might help them move an investigation up their priority list, or look into more serious concerns.

You should also always tell your health care regulator if your complaint is about the use of powers under the Mental Health Act.

What is a health or social care regulator?

Health and social care regulators oversee how health and social care is provided. They do this by regulating and monitoring the providers of that care. These organisations are 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.

Examples of providers whose care will be regulated and monitored include:

  • care homes
  • hospitals
  • supported accommodation

Similarly (but not the same), professionals working in health and social care must also be regulated and follow a code of conduct. If your problem is about a specific individual's conduct or behaviour, one of your options can be to complain to their professional regulatory body about their delivery of health or social care.

The health and social care regulators in England and Wales are:

Making complaints about the Mental Health Act


If you are unhappy about how you've been treated while detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act (sectioned), and you haven't had your problem resolved by making a complaint, you might want to complain to the health care regulator (the CQC in England, or the HIW in Wales).

Health care regulators have a special responsibility to:

  • make sure your rights are protected if you are detained under the Mental Health Act
  • make sure the Mental Health Act is used correctly by professionals
  • employ individuals to visit places where someone is detained under the Mental Health Act, meeting with them in private. They can also meet with someone on a CTO (see our pages on CTOs for more information).
  • investigate complaints made about the use of the Mental Health Act by patients who are liable to be kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act or are living in the community but are subject to a CTO
  • accept complaints from staff and the public

The CQC publishes an annual report about the use of the Mental Health Act in England.

Care Quality Commission (CQC)

The CQC is the regulator of health and social care in England. It does not investigate or resolve individual complaints, but you can contact them if you feel that you, or someone you know, have received poor care.

The CQC registers, monitors and routinely inspects all hospitals, care homes and home care agencies to make sure they meet national standards of quality and safety. All providers of health and social care are required to be registered with the CQC and its reports on each provider are available on its website.

If you decide to give information about a health or social care provider to the CQC, it will be used to help them decide when and where to inspect services.

You can also tell the CQC about your experience, which can be anonymous if you want.

Health Inspectorate Wales (HIW)

The HIW is the regulator of health care in Wales. It does not investigate or resolve individual complaints, but you can contact them if you feel that you, or someone you know, have received poor care.

The HIW registers, monitors and routinely inspects all health care providers to make sure they meet national standards of quality and safety. All providers of health care are required to be registered with the HIW and its reports on each provider are available on its website.

If you decide to give information about a health care or social provider to the HIW it will be used to help the HIW decide when and where to inspect services.

Care and Social Services Inspectorate of Wales (CSSIW)

The CSSIW is the regulator of social care, including nursing care in care homes, in Wales. It regulates and inspects adult social care and social services.

It does not investigate or resolve individual complaints, but you can contact them if you feel that you, or someone you know, have received poor care.

The CSSIW registers, monitors and routinely inspects all care homes, home care agencies and other social care providers to make sure they meet national standards of quality and safety. All providers of social care are required to be registered with the CSSIW and its reports on each provider are available on its website.

If you decide to give information about a social provider to the CSSIW, it will be used to help them decide when and where to inspect services.

What can I do if my complaint is about a particular professional?

If you want to complain about how you have been treated by a health or social care professional, you might be able to make a complaint to the organisation which regulates their profession. This is as well as making a formal complaint to the NHS or local authority.

Health and social care professionals who work in England or Wales must:

  • have the right skills to do their job
  • act professionally and with integrity
  • be registered with a regulator
  • follow standards for their profession (which are set out in a code of practice)

You might make a complaint about a professional if they acted in a way that did not follow their professional standards of service, conduct or ethics.

Sometimes a concern might be so serious it raises the question of whether the health or social care professional can provide safe treatment or care more generally. If you think this is the case, you can complain to the relevant regulator about the professional’s misconduct. Each regulator will have its own complaints procedure which you can ask for and follow.

Regulators are usually able to discipline the relevant professional if necessary, and in the most serious circumstances can stop them from practising.

Which professional regulatory body should I complain to about an individual?

Type of care professional

Type of regulatory body

Doctor (GPs and doctors in hospitals)

General Medical Council (GMC)

Nurses

Nursing and Midwifery Council

Health and care professionals (including clinical psychologists, occupational therapists and speech therapists)

Health and Care Professions Council

What can I do if this hasn't resolved my complaint?

If you feel like your complaint has not been dealt with by the regulator, you might want to seek legal advice about a legal challenge.


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


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