How to complain for people who use services and carers
If the problem presents a risk of harm or abuse is suspected it should be reported immediately. The abuse section of this guide gives a brief outline of what to consider and who to contact.
- Try to resolve the problem at an early stage by talking to staff or managers at the service first.
- If the complaint is about the service manager or there has not been an acceptable response, contact the organisation that funds the service.
- If the problem cannot be resolved informally, ask for a copy of the organisation’s complaints procedure; it should outline the process for taking the matter further.
- Put the complaint in writing and keep a record of any related correspondence or phone calls.
- If the outcome of the complaint is unsatisfactory it can be referred to the commissioning or funding authority (usually the local authority or NHS). The complaints procedure should give information on who to contact.
- If the complaint is not satisfactorily resolved locally, contact the Local Government Ombudsman or the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
- If the complaint is about poor quality or standards, the Care Quality Commission should be informed.
- If all these avenues have been exhausted, and the commissioning authority is thought to have failed in its statutory duties, the issue can be taken to judicial review. This is a High Court hearing that will examine whether the authority in question has correctly interpreted and followed the law. This option can, however, be very costly as legal assistance may be needed.
Help with complaining
- If you need support with making a complaint, ask the service if it can provide it. Your local authority should provide, or have links with, a local advocacy service.
- Some charities, for example Age UK or the Alzheimer’s Society, may be able to provide support with complaining.
- If the service or local authority is unresponsive you can approach your local councillor or MP, they may be able to help.
- The Local Government Ombudsman considers complaints about councils and all types of care service for adults in England. Everyone has access to the same independent Ombudsman service regardless of how the care service is funded. See How to complain about a care home or care in your home. There is also an EasyRead version.
- If you think that a public body has made an unlawful decision you may want to challenge that in the courts through judicial review – the Public Law Project may help you with this process.
- The Citizen’s Advice Bureau offer guidance on complaining about health and social care services.
- The Care Quality Commission has a guide on how to complain about a health care or social care service.
- Information is available on how to complain about NHS services.
- For NHS complaints, the Patient Advice and Liaison Service is there to help.
- Healthwatch England gathers and represents the public's views on health and social care in England. It operates both on a national and local level and ensures that the views of the public and people who use the services are taken into account.
- Patient Opinion is a patient feedback website for sharing information on hospital experiences.
- The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman investigates complaints about unfair or improper actions or poor service by UK government departments and other public organisations, and the NHS in England.
- Unresolved complaints about housing are handled by the Housing Ombudsman Service
- SCIE’s Find Me Good Care resource has a section on making complaints about health and social care services.