What is the NHS Complaints Procedure?

If you are not happy with the medical treatment that you or a family member has received under the National Health Service then it is your right to have your concerns investigated and to be given a full and prompt response by the treating body. This is known as the NHS Complaints Procedure.

It exists to

  • Enable you to make a complaint
  • Ensure that your complaint is dealt with effectively and properly investigated
  • Allows the NHS to learn from the experience

What are the stages of the NHS Complaints Procedure?

Stage One is to have the complaint investigated and resolved at local level. If you do not achieve satisfaction then it is possible to move to stage two which involves an independent review by The Ombudsman.

What services do you cover?

All NHS services including Foundation Trusts, GPs, Dentists, Opticians and Pharmacists. If the NHS has provided it, or paid for it then we cover it.

Who can complain?

Anyone who is affected, or likely to be affected, by the action, omission or decision of an NHS organisation can make a complaint. Clearly that means you can complain about any NHS service you have received or been unhappy about. You can also complain for a friend or relative provided they give you their written permission to complain on their behalf. You don't need this written permission if the person is very ill or does not have the capacity to give permission.

You can still make a complaint if the person it relates to has died.

Young people - under 18 - are entitled to complain independently. The NHS cannot consider a complaint made on behalf of a young person unless they are sure that the young person couldn't have complained themselves.

What do I want to achieve?

It is important to think about what you want to achieve before submitting a complaint and what the NHS might do to resolve the matter. If you simply want to voice a concern then it might be more appropriate to do so informally at local level. We can help you do this too. The NHS Complaints Procedure is a more formal and thorough process. It will help you obtain

  • An explanation regarding what happened
  • An apology or other statement of regret
  • A review of procedures to help avoid a future repeat of what happened.

Can you help me get compensation?

The NHS Complaints Procedure will not normally help you to get financial compensation, although in some cases a small ex-gratia payments might be awarded. The Complaints Procedure is designed to address concerns and identify actions to prevent a recurrence so financial compensation is not normally awarded. Financial compensation through clinical negligence requires legal action. You will need to appoint a specialist medical or clinical negligence solicitor, preferably within three years of the incident.

Will my complaint result in disciplinary action?

Severe disciplinary action is unlikely unless as a direct result of information obtained through the complaint's investigation.

Can you help with complaints against NHS services outside North Yorkshire?

Yes, provided the person affected normally lives in North Yorkshire.

How can I tell if the service was delivered in North Yorkshire or a neighbouring county?

If you are unsure about county boundaries follow this link for an explanation of which local authority area falls within North Yorkshire.

I live in North Yorkshire but my problem is with an NHS service outside North Yorkshire. Can you help?

Yes, provided you live within North Yorkshire.

I live outside North Yorkshire but my problem is with an NHS service within North Yorkshire. Can you help?

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, the commissioning of Independent Health Complaints Advocacy Services has moved from the Department of Health to local authorities. From April 2013, all local authorities are responsible for providing appropriate Independent Health Complaints Advocacy services in their local area. So, if you live outside North Yorkshire please contact your local authority to access your local service.

My problem happened over a year ago. Can you still help?

You should raise a complaint within twelve months of the incident taking place or from the date that you were first made aware of any issue. It's always preferable to raise a concern as early as possible whilst people's recollections are fresh. The NHS has the discretion to consider complaints outside these time limits taking other factors into account such as the length of illness etc.

My problem concerns an NHS service, but I don't know who provided it.

We appreciate it's sometimes difficult to identify NHS service providers and so access their complaints procedure. If you have any doubt about what to do to resolve an issue, let us help. Click here for our enquiry form.

How does Healthwatch North Yorkshire link to the NHS Complaints Advocacy Service?

Both services are independent but provide complimentary activity designed to enhance the local health and social care services across North Yorkshire. Healthwatch North Yorkshire is an independent corporate body and social enterprise as specified in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Its role is to influence (helping to shape the planning of health and social care services) and to signpost (helping people to access and make choices about their care). Its stated aims are to be the independent consumer champion for health and social care and help ensure:

  • people are at the heart of all health and social care services
  • health and social care outcomes in England are among the best in the world
  • there is promotion of the joining up of local NHS services, social care and health improvement.
  • views and feedback from patients and carers are an integral part of local commissioning across health and social care.

Our Independent Health Complaints Advocacy Service in North Yorkshire is both confidential and independent from the NHS, Healthwatch North Yorkshire and North Yorkshire County Council.

We will report regularly to NHS, Healthwatch North Yorkshire, North Yorkshire County Council, Clinical Commissioning Groups on the level of complaints support being provided, trends, outcomes. All complaint data will be anonymised when submitted to any third party including the Commissioners of these services.

Can I Access my Medical records?

Sometimes it may be useful to look at your medical records when you are making a complaint, we can help explain how to go about getting them.

How do I progress a complaint against North Yorkshire County Council Social Services?

There is a separate complaints procedure for Social Services. We can only help with NHS complaints but we can give you advice and guidance on where to get help with a complaint that involves a non-NHS organisation.

Contact details are as follows: The Adult Social Care Complaints Manager, North Yorkshire County Council, Health and Adult Services, County Hall, Northallerton DL7 8DD. Telephone 0800 515875 or 01609 532638. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

How do I complain against an independent care provider or private care home?

Contact them direct in the first instance as they will have their own complaints procedure to follow. If you are unhappy about their response and your care has been arranged and funded by health and adult services you should contact North Yorkshire County Council Health and Adult Services (details above) who may be able to look into your complaint further.

I had an operation in a private hospital. Can I complain to the NHS?

It depends. If the NHS paid for your operation in a private hospital, you can complain to the NHS. If you paid for your treatment yourself, or through private medical insurance, you cannot complain to the NHS. The private hospital will have its own complaints procedure that you should follow.

I want to sue the Specialist Consultant who operated on me. How do I go about it?

You will need to take legal action if you want to make a claim for compensation. The NHS Complaints Procedure does not deal with these cases. You can find details of local specialist solicitors by contacting Community Legal Services or the Law Society.

How do I get consent to act for someone else?

If you wish to pursue a complaint on behalf of another person you may need to provide proof that the person has agreed to you doing this for them. We can help explain how to go about getting this consent but some examples are provided below:

My father is very old and I don't feel he could cope with the complaints process. Can I complain on his behalf?

You may complain for a friend or relative as long as they agree and they give their permission in writing.

My mother has Dementia. How do I get her permission to make a complaint?

If your mother, friend or relative is very ill, or does not have the capacity to give permission because of impairment or a disability, you may complain on their behalf without their permission. However, the NHS will confirm the patient's lack of capacity before accepting the complaint. If they do not accept the complaint they must inform you in writing and tell you why.

My partner died and I did not have consent to act for him. Can I complain about his treatment?

Yes. You may raise a complaint or take over a complaint on behalf of a friend or relative who has died, even if you do not have their written permission. However, the NHS will review if you are a suitable representative and they will discuss this with you.

My nephew is 15 and has Down's Syndrome. Can I complain on his behalf without his written permission?

A complaint can be made on behalf of a child (under age 18) if the child is unable to make the complaint themselves. NHS organisations must not consider a complaint made on behalf of a child unless they are sure that the child is unable to complain themselves. They must inform you in writing if they make this decision and tell you why.

Who pays for this service?

North Yorkshire County Council has commissioned this Independent Health Complaints Advocacy Service for North Yorkshire under the Health and Social Care Act 2012. Cloverleaf Advocacy has been appointed to deliver this county-wide service after a competitive procurement exercise. Although this service is independent of the NHS and NYCC, anonymous data collected will be used to help improve the quality of NHS treatment and care across North Yorkshire.