NHS Complaints

Writing a letter of complaint

How it works

Writing a letter of complaint can seem a daunting task. We've put together some helpful pointers and key things to remember:

Be brief

  • try to keep your complaint to no more than two pages

  • be careful not to lose your main points in a long letter

  • if the complaint is long and complex, attach a log sheet or diary of events with details


Be clear and straightforward

  • use short sentences

  • don’t be afraid to say what has upset you

  • avoid aggressive or accusing language

  • try not to repeat yourself


Be constructive

  • your complaint is an opportunity to improve things

  • put your concerns politely but firmly

  • explain what you would like to achieve as a result of your complaint, e.g. an apology, an explanation, a service improvement, any other remedy

  • take the opportunity to say what / who was good in your experience, if you wish to


Keep copies

  • keep a copy of all letters sent and received in date order

  • send photocopies of documents, not originals

  • keep the original documents in your possession


Make sure your letter is received

  • you may wish to send it by guaranteed or recorded delivery


What happens next?

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 suggested timescales can be influenced by things like how many staff they need to speak to, how easy it is for them to access your medical records and 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.

Click here to download a draft letter template