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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.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
The PHSO has some very useful hints and tips if you are considering a complaint about an NHS service.
As you navigate the NHS, it can be useful to know how the system is structured.
Information about the help available in your area, from local advice organisations to parent support groups.