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The NHS Complaints System

(If anyone has recently gone through the system, please send an email to enquiries@thyroiduk to how you got on!)

The current NHS complaints system came into force in April 2009. The NHS Constitution explains your rights in respect of complaints but in summary you have the right to:

    • have your complaint dealt with efficiently and properly investigated
    • know the outcome of any investigation into your complaint
    • take your complaint to the independent Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman if you're not satisfied with the way the NHS has dealt with your complaint
    • make a claim for judicial review if you think you've been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body
    • receive compensation if you've been harmed

The NHS also commits:

    • to ensure you are treated with courtesy and you receive appropriate support throughout the handling of a complaint; and the fact that you have complained will not adversely affect your future treatment (pledge)
    • when mistakes happen, to acknowledge them, apologise, explain what went wrong and put things right quickly and effectively (pledge); and
    • to ensure that the organisation learns lessons from complaints and claims and uses these to improve NHS services (pledge).

There are two stages in the NHS complaints procedure; local resolution and the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

  • Local resolution: after first contacting your local Primary Care Trust, hospital or surgery and asking for its Complaints Procedure, you should bring the matter up with the person concerned, ie the nurse or GP, either in writing or by speaking to them.  (We would suggest in writing as then you have a piece of evidence that may be needed later).
  • Parliamentary and Health Service OmbudsmanParliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman: if you are still unhappy, you can refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.  Their website has interactive pages to guide you through the process:


If you need help in making your complaint there are organisations that can provide this:


Patient Advice and Liaison Services logoPatient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

You can find details of your local PALS in your local doctor’s surgery and hospital.  Their advice is confidential and they offer information and support on any health-related matter.  Their contact details are on their website: http://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1082.aspx?CategoryID=68


Independent Complaints Advocacy Service logoIndependent Complaints Advocacy Service (ICAS)

ICAS is a free, independent advocacy service that can help you make a complaint about any aspect of your NHS care or treatment. This includes treatment in a private hospital or care home that is funded by the NHS.

However, they cannot help you if your case has already gone to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman so think carefully before you go to that stage of the complaints system.

The ICAS service is delivered by three different organizations depending on where you live in the UK:
South West, South Central and South East of England is delivered by Support, Empower, Advocate, Promote (SEAP). 
For their information about NHS Complaints go to:http://www.seap.org.uk/services/nhs-complaints-advocacy/  See below the contacts for all the SEAP areas:

SEAP Hastings

03304 409000


SEAP Berkshire

01189 754517


SEAP Basingstoke

03304 409001


SEAP Broadmoor

01344 754598


SEAP Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire

01865 728981


SEAP Trowbridge

03304 409002


SEAP Liskeard/Plymouth

03304 409003


SEAP Portsmouth

02392 837777


SEAP Plymouth

03304 409003



East Midands, North East, North West, Yorkshire & Humberside is delivered by The Carers Federation.

For their information about NHS Complaints go to: http://www.carersfederation.org.uk/ 
The following areas can be contacted on: 08088 023000

East Midlands - Nottingham

East Midlands - Leicester

East Midlands – Lincoln

North East – Newton Aycliffe

North East – Newcastle

North West – Penrith

North West - Liverpool

North West - Manchester

North West – Preston

Yorkshire & Humberside – Rotherham

Yorkshire & Humberside – Hull

Yorkshire & Humberside - Leeds

London, The West Midlands, The East Of England is delivered by People of Hertfordshire Want Equal Rights (POhWER).
For their information about NHS Complaints go to: http://www.pohwer.net/about-us/form
The following areas can be contacted on: 03004 562370

Birmingham and the Black Country

Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk

Coventry, Warwickshire and Worcestershire


Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire

North London

Shropshire and Staffordshire


Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

Citizens Advice Bureau logoYour local CAB will be able to offer support and advice on how to complain. Information on NHS Healthcare can be found at: http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/england/healthcare_e.htm

For their on-line advice guide on NHS complaints go to: http://goo.gl/NBTIZ  or telephone them:

  • For Wales call 08444 772020
  • For England call 08444 111444.
  • For TextRelay users call 08444 111445

For Northern Ireland go to www.citizensadvice.co.uk
For Scotland please go to www.cas.org.uk


Public Law Project

The Public Law Project logoThe Public Law Project is an independent, national, legal charity which aims to improve access to public law remedies for those whose access is restricted by poverty, discrimination or other similar barriers.  They have some excellent information leaflets on complaints, which include:

Guide to complaints to the Ombudsman:

Making an Effective Complaint to a Public Body:


NHS Choices logoNHS Choices
The NHS Choices website has an explanation about how to complain, plus some handy tips:

  • If you decide to make a complaint it's important to consider what you want to happen.  Are you content with an apology, do you want action to be taken against a member of staff, or do you want a change to the system?  Whatever action you're seeking, make this clear.
  • Before you make your complaint, make a note of the relevant events, dates, times, names and conversations, and include all necessary details.  Your notes will also help you to remember all the details in the future.  Processing a complaint can take a while, and you might be asked to verify some information at a later stage.
  • Whether you decide to complain orally or in writing, try to make your explanations as short and clear as possible.  Focus on the main issues, and leave out irrelevant details.  If you can, talk through what you want to say with someone else, or ask them to read what you've written before you send it.  If you complain in writing, keep a copy of everything you post, and make a note of when you sent it.

To visit this section of their website go to:

Department of Health logoDoctors have set time limits in which to respond (three days in most cases) and they have to monitor and record all complaints.  They also have to write an annual report about the number of complaints, the subject matter of the complaints and any matters where action has been or is to be taken to improve services as a consequence of those complaints.  Under the Freedom of Information Act, we may be able to find out exactly how many complaints have been made about the treatment of thyroid disease and exactly how they are dealing with it.

The original Department of Health Consultation Paper – Making Experiences Count: A new approach to responding to complaints can be found at:



If anyone has recently gone through the system, please do email enquiries@thyroiduk.org to let us know how you got on!

Last updated 25/03/2015