Feedback & complaints
The NHS Constitution sets out the rights you have if you are unhappy with your care in the NHS. It also encourages everyone to give feedback, both positive and negative, about your experiences of NHS care in order to improve services.
There are several ways you can raise a concern or give positive or negative feedback.
Friends and Family Test
If you have seen your GP, been in hospital or received an NHS community service, you should be asked to complete a Friends and Family Test where you can give feedback about your care. You can still provide feedback even if you haven't been asked to. Just ask the staff member for their Friends and Family Form.
PALS - patient advice and liaison service
Most hospitals and community services have a PALS, usually based in the local hospital. You can find your local PALS on the NHS website.
PALS can provide help with:
- Health related questions, including about the NHS and any local support groups.
- Resolving health concerns - especially useful if you are in hospital and are unhappy or concerned about your treatment.
- Getting more involved in your own healthcare.
- Providing information about the NHS complaints system, including where you can get independent help.
Many hospitals, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and community services have online forms to provide feedback. Search their website for comments, feedback and complaints.
Healthwatch is the independent national champion for people who use health and social care services. There is a local Healthwatch in every area of England.
Your local Healthwatch can provide information on:
- How to access health and social care services.
- How to make complaints.
- Your rights in relation to health and social care.
- Local services, including reports it publishes about those services.
Care Opinion is an independent online feedback site that works with NHS organisations. You can search for other stories about your local services or leave your own feedback.
Because the NHS is made up of many different organisations, it can be difficult to know who you need to complain to.
If your complaint is about a service or the care you received, it is most likely you will want to complain to the organisation that provided the care or service. For example: a GP surgery, a hospital or a community services trust.
You can also complain to the organisation that 'pays for' the services (the commissioners), for example about the lack of a service. For hospitals, ambulance and community services this is the clinical commissioning group (CCG). For most GPs and some specialised services, this is NHS England.
There is a useful flowchart from Citizens Advice to help you decide who to complain to.
NHS Complaints Advocacy
All areas of England have an organisation that provides independent advocacy to help you if you are considering making a complaint about an NHS service or organisation. An advocate can also attend meetings with you and review any information you're given during the complaints process. You can seek advice from an NHS complaints advocate at any stage of the process.
Your local Healthwatch can help you find your NHS Complaints Advocacy organisation. Some Healthwatch's provide this service themselves.
Alternatively, most hospital and community services websites have details of their local organisation on their website - search for complaints.
NHS Complaints process and policies
The NHS complaints process should be exactly the same regardless of where you live in England. All organisations that provide NHS care must have a complaints policy that details what you can expect and timescales that should be followed. It should be on their website (search for complaints) or you can ask your local PALS for the complaints policy.
Generally, if you have a complaint about an NHS service, you must initiate the complaint within 12 months of the event happening or as soon as you become aware of it.
Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)
If you have complained to your local service or commissioner (CCG or NHS England) and you are unsatisfied with the response, you can complain to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman who will investigate your complaint further. The PHSO has a useful online tool to check whether you can complain to them.
Hints and tips about complaints
The PHSO has some very useful hints and tips if you are considering a complaint about an NHS service.