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How to complain

You can complain to the NHS in two ways:

Complain to your healthcare provider

This is the organisation where you received the NHS service – for example, your hospital, GP surgery or dental surgery.

You can complain by speaking to someone in the organisation or by sending a letter or email.   Your complaint should be made within 12 months of the incident or within 12 months of the matter coming to your attention. This time limit can sometimes be extended as long as it is still possible to investigate your complaint.

People of any age can complain – a family member, carer, friend or your local MP can complain on your behalf with your permission.

Complain to the commissioner

This is the organisation that pays for the service or care you received. This will vary depending on the NHS service you are complaining about.

If your complaint is about primary care services such as GPs, dentists, opticians or pharmacy services, contact NHS England. You need to provide as much information as possible to allow NHS England to investigate your complaint. Include some or all of the following information:

  • your name and a valid email or home address for reply
  • a phone number in case they need to contact you for additional information
  • a clear description of what you want to complain about and when this happened
  • the name of the service you want to complain about
  • any relevant correspondence

If your complaint is about services such as hospital care, mental health services, out of hours services and community services such as district nursing, contact your local clinical commissioning group (CCG)

If your complaint is about public health organisations (those who provide services which prevent disease, promote health and prolong life), contact your local council

If you are not comfortable complaining directly to your healthcare provider or if you feel this is not appropriate, complaining to the commissioner may be the right option for you.

Please note: if you have already complained to your healthcare provider, the commissioner will not be able to re-investigate the same concerns. 

If you are unhappy with the outcome of your complaint, you may wish to go to the next stage of the NHS complaints procedure (the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman).

Date updated: 20/04/21 (V1.1)
Review date: 18/05/21

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