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Health and adult social care regulatory bodies - reporting professional misconduct or concerns about fitness to practise

This advice applies to England

NHS and adult social care is usually very good and most people don’t have any problems. But occasionally things can go wrong. This page tells you about how to complain to the regulatory body of a health or care professional.

Complaining about professional misconduct or fitness to practise

It’s usually best to raise general concerns or complaints about health and care professionals directly with them or their manager, or with the body that buys or commissions the service. However, you could raise your concerns to a regulatory body if:

  • their behaviour or level of competence is so serious that your safety is at risk, or
  • they are not fit to practise.

Examples include:

  • repeated poor performance, calling into question their professional competence
  • dishonesty about something which has gone wrong, or falsifying medical records
  • sexual relationships with patients
  • false claims to qualifications
  • breaking confidentiality.

All health and care professionals must be registered and regulated by their regulatory body. Each regulatory body has a code of conduct which sets out the standards which are expected of the professionals they register. If someone seriously breaks the code, their regulatory body could take action against them. Remember however that it’s not the role of regulatory bodies to investigate complaints which don’t call into question a health or care professional’s fitness to practise, however serious the problem may be.

To make a complaint, write to the relevant organisation, giving as much information as you can about the issue that’s concerning you. The organisation will let you know what their particular complaints procedure involves. Details of how to complain about misconduct are usually included on their website.

You can make a complaint to a regulatory body even if you’ve also made a complaint under the NHS or adult social care complaints procedure. However, if an investigation has already started under the complaints procedure, the regulatory body may decide to wait for the outcome of this procedure before deciding what, if anything, they should do.

Time limits

Check whether there are time limits to raise concerns with a regulatory body. For example, the General Medical Council, which investigates complaints about doctors, says that they can't usually investigate concerns about something that took place more than 5 years ago unless it's an exceptional case and it would be in the public interest to investigate it. If your concern is over 5 years old, they will ask you to:

  • tell them why you didn’t raise it with them before, and
  • explain why it's in the public interest to investigate the matter now.

What they can do

The regulatory body can:

  • issue written advice, warnings, or reprimands
  • set out conditions, for example, limit the kind of work that the professional can do, or require them to do further training
  • in serious cases, strike the health or care professional off the register so that they can no longer practise.

What they can’t do

Professional bodies can’t usually:

  • give you a detailed explanation of what happened to you - this can only come from the individual or organisation concerned
  • order a doctor to provide the treatment you want
  • give you compensation or help you with a claim for compensation
  • fine the professional
  • make a professional apologise to you.

Contacting a regulatory body

Get help

There are organisations that can help you with a complaint to a regulatory body, for example, local Healthwatch or the charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) which provides free specialist medico-legal advice including advice on making referrals to professional regulators. The website is www.avma.org.uk and the helpline number is 0845 123 23 52 (Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm).

Next steps

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