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Asking for an independent review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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 about independent reviews by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman under the NHS complaints procedure.

What is an independent review?

If you’ve made a complaint under the NHS complaints procedure and you aren’t satisfied with how it was dealt with at the first stage (called local resolution), you have the right to ask for an independent review by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. However, they are unlikely to agree to an independent review if they think that more should be done to sort out the problem at local resolution stage. Also the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman may not be able to look at your complaint if:

  • you’re already taking legal action
  • you’re planning to take legal action
  • they think that there’s a course of legal action open to you that it’s reasonable, or was reasonable, for you to follow. They will look at the individual circumstances of your complaint when deciding whether it is, or was, reasonable for you to take legal action.

You should make a request for an independent review within 12 months of the incident happening or when you first became aware that something had gone wrong. You should try to keep to this time limit but if this isn’t possible, you could still ask the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman to consider your request, particularly if you have a good reason for the delay such as grief or illness.

Your statement should include:

  • a summary of what happened
  • details of the main issues of concern
  • details of what action has been taken so far
  • details of what you are still unhappy with
  • why you feel that further action under the local resolution stage of the complaint wouldn’t sort out the problem
  • why you think an independent review would be helpful.

You can complain to the Ombudsman using their online form.

What can the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman do?

If your complaint is upheld, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman can ask the organisation to say sorry and give you an explanation of what went wrong. They could also call for changes to prevent the same incident happening again or for a review of procedures.

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman can also order financial compensation but this is normally lower than a court could award. Therefore, if the amount of financial compensation you’re looking for is high, you might have to take legal action. If you want specific care or treatment as a result of the problem, you may want to approach your GP first, because the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman doesn’t normally get involved in someone’s ongoing care and treatment.

Example

Child B was an eight-year-old child who was discharged from hospital. Staff had missed signs that showed she was seriously ill and sadly she died at home the next day.

On the recommendation of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, the hospital apologised to Child B's family, paid them compensation and explained how they would stop something like that happening again. Specific measures put in place by the hospital included developing a early warning score system for children, and writing guidelines about children with fever. They also recommended that the doctor worked with her tutor to put in place a plan to address the failings in her care of Child B.

The hospital has since admitted they were negligent in the care they gave to Child B.

What will happen after you send your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman?

Once the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman gets your complaint, they will let you know within 5 days who your contact person is. This is the person to ask about how your complaint is going.

How long will it take to resolve your complaint?

Many of the cases considered by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman take some time. This will depend on the circumstances and complexity of the problem.

How will they deal with your complaint?

Each case will be looked at individually. The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman will examine the issues that you have raised and how the complaint has been handled at local resolution stage. Where appropriate, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman will take advice from medical experts and then make a decision.

What happens if you’re unhappy with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman’s response to your complaint?

If you're unhappy about the response of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, you might be able to ask them to look at your complaint again.

You'll need to show:

  • what was wrong about the decision
  • why this would make a difference to the decision
  • what you'd like them to do to resolve your complaint

It's best to speak with the person who originally looked at your complaint. They'll explain what you need to do and send you a complaint form. You should make a complaint about the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman response with one month of the date of the decision.

You can find out more about the complaints process on the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman website.

Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Telephone: 0345 015 4033
Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.30pm

Calls to this number cost up to 9p a minute from a landline, and between 3p and 45p a minute from a mobile.

Next steps

►More about the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

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