How to complain about your GP or Hospital treatment

3 December 2019

If you have received treatment from a medical organisation that falls below a reasonable standard and this causes you a serious injury, a specialist medical negligence solicitor can assist you in bringing a legal claim for compensation.

However, there may be times when not all of these criteria are met, for example where treatment fell below a reasonable standard, but did not (fortunately) cause any injury. In this case it may be appropriate to complain about the treatment received. This article explains how to complain about treatment provided by the NHS (please note if you received your treatment privately there will be a different complaints procedure).

The NHS complaints system has two stages:

  • local resolution (e.g. by your GP or the Trust responsible);
  • independent review by the Health Service Ombudsman.

Local resolution

Many issues can be resolved quickly by speaking directly to the staff at the place where you were treated.

 If however, you want to make a formal complaint, you should:

  1. Get a copy of the complaints procedure for the NHS provider, this will explain exactly how to proceed. Often, providers will have these on their websites so that is a good place to look first;
  2. While you can complain orally, it is advisable to make a complaint in writing so that there is a record of it. Sending complaints by email where possible will also ensure that you have a record of your complaint being sent (and received);
  3. You should make sure your complaint is clear; include where and when the event happened, who was involved and why you are unhappy with the relevant treatment;
  4. It is also advisable to include what you would like to happen as a result of your complaint;
  5. The healthcare provider must acknowledge your complaint within three working days after receipt;
  6. At the end of the investigation the complainant receives a formal written response.

Complaints should normally be made within 12 months of an incident.


The Ombudsman

If you are still unhappy after your NHS complaint has been processed, or indeed are unhappy about how the claim is being processed, you can refer the matter to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, who is independent of the NHS and the government. The Ombudsman will normally only accept a complaint if it has been through the local resolution stage.

  • The Ombudsman’s website provides a step-by-step guide to making a complaint including a form that can be downloaded and completed manually or online;
  • Alternatively you can complain by writing a letter, emailing, or telephoning the Ombudsman;
  • The Ombudsman will ask for all evidence about the complaint, in particular all the letters you have to and from the organisation about which the complaint has been made, so make sure you keep a record of all of this.

More information can be found on the Ombudsman’s website.



The potential outcomes of the NHS complaints procedure is:

  • A written response from either the NHS provider (stage 1), or the Ombudsman (stage 2);
  • A meeting, conciliation or mediation may be offered;
  • The healthcare professions involved may be referred to statutory bodies including the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council.;
  • The NHS provider may be referred for inspection by the Care Quality Commission;
  • A recommendation may be made that no further action be taken.

It is important to note that compensation is not normally part of the NHS complaints process, though NHS bodies do have the discretion to make modest ‘ex gratia’ payments. If the matter is complex, the injury suffered is serious, or the amount involved substantial, then arguably the NHS complaints process is not the appropriate route and you should seek legal advice.

Further information

If you would like to discuss a possible clinical negligence claim please contact one of our Medical Negligence & Personal Injury lawyers on 020 7814 1200, or email us at

About the author

Aideen McGarry is an Associate in the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team. Aideen has experience working on high-value clinical negligence and personal injury claims. She has acted for clients in claims against their GP, hospital or health providers in relation to injuries suffered as a result of wrong treatment, surgical error, delay or missed diagnosis. Aideen has also represented clients injured in road traffic accidents, accidents at work and accidents on public property. 

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