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Understanding the NHS complaints process

When do I need to make my complaint?

You should make your complaint within 12 months of the event


within 12 months of you realising you had something to complain about. NHS organisations are allowed to waive this time limit at their discretion if there are good reasons why you could not complain.

How do I make a complaint?

You can do this in person, over the phone, by email or letter.

More information can be found on the Preparing to make a complaint and Writing a letter of complaint pages.

If you would like to find out how an advocate could help, information can be found on our NHS Complaints Advocacy service page.

What can I expect from the NHS when I make a complaint?

  • To be treated with courtesy and respect

  • To be offered support to help you raise your complaint

  • A timely response to be given where possible

NHS policy says that you should receive a letter of acknowledgement within three working days from receipt of your letter of complaint. The NHS should contact you to discuss your complaint and arrange a plan to resolve your concerns with you. This means that they will discuss how best to resolve your concerns and what you hope to achieve from raising them.

They should also agree with you a timescale for resolving the issues and keep you informed of progress.

The length of time it will take will depend on:

  • how many staff they need to speak to,

  • how easy it is for them to access your medical records

  • if other NHS organisations are involved in your complaint

If there is a problem in keeping to this timescale, they should contact you before it expires to agree an amended timescale.

They might invite you to a Local Resolution Meeting (LRM). Sometimes, it is easier to hear answers to what may seem to be a straightforward question but may have a complex medical explanation.

For more information about LRMs, visit our Attending a meeting page.

Can I make a claim for Clinical Negligence?

There are limits to what can be achieved using the NHS Complaints Procedure and it cannot be used for financial compensation for clinical negligence. This is usually only possible through legal action.

You will need to speak to a specialist medical or clinical negligence solicitor within 3 years of the event or you becoming aware that there is something to complaint about.

You can obtain details about accessing specialist solicitors by contacting either of the below organisations:

The Law Society

020 7320 5650 (Mon-Fri 9am to 5pm charged at local rates)

Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)

0345 123 23 52 (Mon-Fri 10am - 3.30pm)

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