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Tips for writing a letter of complaint about health or adult social care services

This advice applies to England

If you have to make a written complaint about a health or adult care service, you should structure your thoughts carefully. On this page we have some tips and a video to help you write a letter and get you the result you want.

Get advice first

It is usually best to get advice before writing a letter of complaint about the NHS or adult social care. Each situation is different and getting advice could help you understand exactly:

  • what you can expect from your care or treatment, and
  • whether the steps that have been taken so far are reasonable, and
  • what to include in your letter.

How to write a letter of complaint

Make sure that you have a valid reason to complain and that you’re someone with a right to complain.

If you’re complaining on behalf of someone else, you’ll usually have to include their written permission. If they can’t give permission, for example, because they are too ill, explain this in your letter.

Keep your letter to the point and as short as possible.

Try to work together with your health or care professional  as far as possible to sort out the problem.

List clearly the things you’re complaining about. Write them down in date order, with as many factual details that you can. For example, if you are complaining about the behaviour of your GP at an appointment, write down:

  • the date and place of the appointment
  • the name of the GP
  • the names of anyone else who witnessed the unacceptable behaviour.

Back up everything that you write - keep any documents you get. You can attach copies of relevant documents to your letter.

Write the complaint in an unemotional way. Don’t make personal attacks on the staff you are complaining about - stick to complaining about the aspects of their behaviour that are unacceptable.

State the outcome you’re hoping for. This could be just an apology and an undertaking to behave differently in the future.

Examples

If the complaint is about careless paperwork, ask for confirmation that the mistakes will be corrected.

If you’re complaining about unreasonable delays in getting copies of medical reports, ask for a firm date to get the report.

Get legal advice if you want a more formal outcome such as compensation.

Date your letter and ask for a reply to your letter within the timescales set out by your health service or local authority.

You could also send a copy of the letter to other people involved. For example, if you are writing to a nurse about her behaviour on the ward, send a copy of your letter to her manager and the complaints manager at the hospital. If the complaint is about professional misconduct, you could send a copy of your letter to their regulatory body.

Keep a copy of your letter and any attachments you send and a note of when you post your letter.

Next steps

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