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Consumer Rights.

Updated: 4 Mar 2021

How to take a complaint to the health service (NHS) ombudsman

If you have a complaint with your GP or surgery, you can refer your complaint to the Health Service (NHS) Ombudsman. It's independent of the NHS and free to use.
Which?Editorial team

1 Follow GP complaints procedure

Before referring any complaint to the Health Service (NHS) Ombudsman, you must first follow the usual NHS complaints procedure

You will need to show that you’ve tried to resolve your complaint at at local level before the ombudsman is able to look into it.

2 Check you meet the requirements 

If you're unhappy with the final response from your GP practice or the NHS in your region, you can refer your complaint to the Health Service Ombudsman. 

You must have received a final response to your complaint before the ombudsman can look at it. The ombudsman will need a copy of this in writing. 

If you feel that it is taking too long to receive a final response, you can call the ombudsman to see if they can help.

The ombudsman will not usually look into your complaint if it happened more than 12 months ago, or if you first became aware of it more than 12 months ago, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

3 Find the correct Ombudsman 

The ombudsman you contact will differ depending on where you live:

4 Complete a complaint form 

You will need to complete a complaint form, but you can call or email the ombudsman for help with this. NHS Advocacy at your local authority can also help you make your complaint.

You should include the following information on the form:

  • Your name and address 
  • The name and address of the GP and surgery you're complaining about
  • Details of what your complaint is about, including exactly what the GP or GP practice did that shouldn’t have happened (or what should have happened but didn't)
  • What you have lost in terms of personal injustice, financial loss, hardship or inconvenience
  • What you would like the GP surgery to do to put things right, and details of what you have done so far to try and resolve the complaint
  • Include copies of any relevant letters or emails you've exchanged with your GP or GP surgery

5 Await ombudsman's decision

The ombudsman will look at every complaint it receives. But it cannot investigate all of them. 

Sometimes they may be able to offer help without investigating, for example, by suggesting changes or giving you advice. 

If the ombudsman decides that it can legally investigate your complaint, they will look at all the facts. They might need to get expert advice or more evidence.

6 Make complaints count 

Which? has launched a campaign to make complaints count in public services.

Research carried out by Which? reveals a third of people who have had a problem with public services in the past year didn't complain. The key reasons being not knowing who to complain to and thinking it wouldn't be worth the effort.

The ‘Make complaints count’ campaign is calling on the government to pledge to be the champion of patients, parents and all users of public services.

Make your voice heard now by signing your name and sharing your experiences.