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How to make a complaint about medical treatment of children or young people

This advice applies to England

If things go wrong when a child or young person is treated by the NHS, it's possible to make a complaint. This page tells you more.

Children and young people - complaining about medical treatment

If you’re a child or young person, you have the right to make a complaint about something that goes wrong or if you’re not happy about the way you’ve been treated.

You may be worried about making a complaint because:

  • you don't want to your parents to know about the issue
  • you’re worried you won't be taken seriously or will be seen as a trouble-maker.

But don't worry. It’s important to complain if something goes wrong so things can be made better next time. Remember, you have rights when you make a complaint. For example:

  • complaints must be kept confidential except in very exceptional cases where you’re at risk of harm
  • you don’t have to put your complaint in writing - you can talk it through with someone if you prefer
  • you can get help to make a complaint.

If you don't want to make a complaint yourself, you can ask someone else to make a complaint for you. Your parents, a friend or an advice worker can make the complaint if you give them permission - see below.

Parents’ rights to make complaints on behalf of their children

If you’re the parent of a child under 16, you can make a complaint on their behalf, but only if the NHS thinks the child can't make the complaint themselves.

If you’re the parent of an older child, or a young person who the NHS thinks can make the complaint themselves, the NHS will need the child’s permission for you to make a complaint on their behalf. The NHS might ask the child to agree to you making the complaint or to fill in a ‘Permission to act on my behalf’ form.

The NHS will expect young people aged 16 or 17 to make their own complaint if they have the understanding to do so. If they don’t have this understanding, you, as the parent, can make a complaint on their behalf.

If you’re over 18, the NHS expects you to make your own complaint. If you want your parents to do it on your behalf, you’ll have to give them permission to do this. If you’re the parent of someone over 18 who can’t give their consent, you can act as the representative if this is in the best interests of the young person. The NHS should investigate the complaint, unless they have reason to believe it is not in the young person's best interest.

Get help

Your local Healthwatch can tell you where to go to for support if you decide to make a complaint.

Next steps

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