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Complaining about discrimination in health and care services

This advice applies to England

If you’ve experienced discrimination by a healthcare or care provider, there are different things you can do. For example, you can talk to the healthcare or care professional who discriminated against you or you can make a formal complaint to the organisation where they work.

Read this to find out more about how to complain about discrimination by a healthcare or care provider.

Making an informal complaint

It’s often best to try to resolve your problem informally first. It may stop the problem getting worse and avoid the expense of taking legal action.

You can make an informal complaint first by talking to the healthcare or care provider who discriminated against you.

If you make an informal complaint, it’s a good idea to include the following things in your conversation:

  • a description of the service you tried to use
  • the names and job titles of the people involved
  • a short description of what happened
  • the date and time of the incident
  • a description of how the incident affected you
  • what you want the organisation to do now - for example, apologise or review a decision already taken or offer compensation
  • when you expect a reply.

If you talk to the healthcare or care provider informally, it’s best to keep a record of the conversation and make a note of the date. It’s also a good idea to follow up the conversation with a letter recording what was discussed.

Making a formal complaint

If the problem isn't resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint. All NHS hospitals, GP surgeries and local authority social services must have a complaints procedure. If you want to make a formal complaint you should ask the healthcare or care provider for a copy of their complaints procedure.

What should you include in your written complaint?

If you make a formal written complaint you should include the following things:

  • explain what happened - include any relevant dates and times, the names of anyone involved
  • say how the discrimination has affected you - for example, that it's made you feel very upset or that you've lost money as a result
  • say what you want to happen as a result of the complaint - for example, an apology, a review of the decision that's been taken or compensation
  • say when you want a reply
  • include your name and contact details.

If an adviser is helping you with the complaint and you want them to advocate on your behalf, you should include their name and contact details in your written complaint. You will also need to attach a letter of authorisation signed by you to show you want the adviser to act for you.

Keep a copy of the letter and write down when you sent it. It's best to send the letter by recorded delivery, or you can ask for a free certificate of posting.

The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) has template letters you can use if you want to complain about discrimination by a service provider, including someone providing health and care services at

If the complaint isn't resolved

If your problem hasn't been resolved by making a formal complaint to the healthcare or care provider, there are other things you can do.

You can make a complaint to other organisations whose job it is to investigate complaints by members of the public - for example, an ombudsman. Who you complain to depends on where you live. There are different organisations for England, Wales and Scotland.

You can also take legal action.

If you’ve been discriminated against by a public authority

The law says a public authority is an organisation which provides public functions or services. This can be a public sector organisation, like an NHS hospital, but it can also be a private organisation or charity if it carries out public functions. For example, a private care home can be a public authority if it's funded by the local authority to provide residential care on it's behalf.

If the healthcare or care provider who’s discriminated against you is a public authority, you may be able to use human rights law or the public sector equality duty to strengthen your discrimination case.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

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