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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Terms you need to know



Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs)

CCGs are groups of GP practices and other healthcare professionals and bodies that are responsible for commissioning most health and care services for patients. They have replaced Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) in England.

Clinical negligence

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

Community treatment order (CTO)

If you have been sectioned and treated in hospital under certain sections, your responsible clinician can apply for you to be put on a CTO. This means that you can be discharged from the section and leave hospital, but you might have to meet certain conditions such as:

  • living in a certain place
  • going somewhere for medical treatment

See our pages on CTOs for more information.

Healthcare decisions

Healthcare decisions are made by people like GPs, nurses and hospital managers. These can include decisions like:

  • the information you've been given about your treatment
  • your discharge from hospital, or
  • how long you've waited for treatment

Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA)

This is a law that the government has brought in to protect our human rights in the UK.

See our pages on the Human Rights Act for more information.

Local health board (LHBs)

These are organisations in the health service in Wales that have been set up to develop and provide health services based on the needs of the local community.

Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA)

This is a law that applies to England and Wales which allows people to be detained in hospital (sectioned) if they have a mental illness and need treatment. You can only be kept in hospital if certain conditions are met.

See our pages on the Mental Health Act for more information.


An ombudsman is an official appointed to investigate someone's complaint against a company or organisation, especially a public authority. The ombudsman is independent of the NHS, providers of care, local authorities and the government.

Public authorities

These are organisations whose role is of a public nature. This includes:

  • police
  • NHS hospitals and employees
  • local authorities and their employees
  • some nursing and personal care accommodation providers
  • prison staff
  • courts and tribunals, including Mental Health Tribunals
  • government departments and their employees
  • statutory bodies and their employees (for example the Information Commissioner’s Office)

Public sector equality duty

This is the legal duty which public authorities like councils, NHS hospitals and government departments have to follow. It means they have to consider how their policies and practices affect people with protected characteristics, like people with mental health problems.

Private or voluntary organisations also have to follow the public sector equality duty when they carry out a public function on behalf of public authorities. For example, a private firm that is employed by a local council to collect council tax arrears needs to follow the public sector equality duty.

Regulator (health and social care)

Health and social care regulators oversee the health and social care professions by regulating individual professionals.

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.


In this guide, being 'sectioned' means that you are kept in hospital under the Mental Health Act. There are different types of sections, each with different rules to keep you in hospital. The length of time that you can be kept in hospital depends on which section you are detained under.

See our pages on sectioning for more information.

Social care decisions

Social care decisions are made by people like social workers, nurses or support workers. These can include decisions like:

  • how you have been assessed for social care
  • a refusal to provide a particular service in your area
  • inappropriate behaviour of staff in social service.


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

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