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Where to start if you have a problem with the NHS

This advice applies to England

NHS care is usually very good and most people don’t have any problems. But occasionally things can go wrong. This page tells you where to start if a problem comes up.

What NHS services can you complain about?

You may have concerns about any aspect of NHS care and treatment. Here are just some examples of who you can complain about. But remember this isn’t a complete list. You can complain about the actions or decisions of any NHS body, even if it isn’t in the list below.

You can make a complaint about:

  • hospital treatment. This includes private hospitals where the NHS funds treatment
  • GPs
  • nurses and midwives
  • dentists
  • pharmacies
  • physiotherapists
  • ambulances
  • health services in prison
  • health visitors
  • optical services
  • mental health services
  • special health authorities like the Health and Social Care Information Centre or the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

How to complain

Depending on what happened and what you want to achieve, you may have different options about how to raise concerns about your care or treatment. For example, you could:

  • use the NHS complaints procedure. You can complain directly to whoever is providing the service, or to whoever is responsible for buying or commissioning the services. For example, the clinical commissioning group is responsible for commissioning hospital services and  NHS England is responsible for commissioning dental services
  • take legal action, for example, for clinical negligence
  • report the problem to another body, like the Care Quality Commission or local Healthwatch
  • report a healthcare professional to their regulatory body, in cases of professional misconduct
  • provide feedback about certain NHS services using a survey called the Friends and Family Test (see below).

The NHS friends and family test

The NHS friends and family test is one way for you to provide feedback on the care and treatment you receive and improve services. The test asks patients whether they would recommend hospital wards, Accident and Emergency departments and maternity services to their friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment. National test results for hospitals and maternity services are available on the NHS Choices website.

  • More about the friends and family test at www.nhs.uk.

Medical records

If you’re thinking of making a complaint about the medical treatment which you did or didn’t receive, you may find it helpful to obtain a copy of your medical records first.

Whistleblowing

You may be someone who works for the NHS and concerned about unsafe work practices or lack of care by other professionals. There are special procedures to follow to raise your concerns.

Get help

Depending on the circumstances, it can be difficult or distressing to make a complaint. It’s usually best to get help to do this, for example, from your local Healthwatch.

Next steps

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