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Making a complaint about a care provider

Deciding to make a complaint about a care provider can be very upsetting, but it should welcome feedback and do its best to put things right.
4 min read
In this article
Solving problems and making a complaint Raising awareness of the problem Has your loved one refused care? Escalating a complaint: self-funder
Escalating a complaint: local authority-funded care The importance of keeping records  Writing a letter of complaint Healthwatch

Solving problems and making a complaint

If you need to make a complaint about a care home or home care agency, there are procedures in place to help you take your worries further. Don’t be afraid to speak up – if you don’t raise concerns, nothing can be done about them. Raising awareness of problems could help to make things better, as well as raising awareness for other people being cared for by the same provider. 

We explain how to raise awareness of a problem, give information about keeping records and the five steps to take when writing a letter of complaint.

We have specific guidance elsewhere in this guide for challenging a local authority decision relating to an assessment or funding allocation or the way a member of council staff has treated you. We also have advice on how to complain about an NHS assessment.

Raising awareness of the problem

Speak to the care home/agency manager to give them a chance to investigate, explain and put things right. Tell them what you want them to do. Don’t be worried about raising issues. If you don’t speak up, then improvements can’t be made or problems resolved. A manager may not be aware there is an issue until you raise it. Most problems can be easily resolved at this stage; however, you may wish to agree a timeframe for a resolution.

If you don’t speak up, then improvements can’t be made or problems resolved

Has your loved one refused care?

If it looks like a carer hasn’t been doing certain tasks, check to see whether this is because your loved one has refused care – in which case, a carer legally can’t do what was originally asked of them.

If your friend or relative doesn’t want certain things done for them, this should be noted in the daily report sheets by the carer. If the pattern of refusal continues, always follow this up with the agency manager. This applies to all clients, regardless of their mental or physical health.

Escalating a complaint: self-funder

While the national care regulators in each UK nation monitor care providers, in England, Northern Ireland and Wales they do not investigate individual complaints. However, they welcome concerns and comments you may have about a regulated service provider, and this may help to ensure that the issue is addressed and doesn’t affect others.

An exception to this is the care regulator in Scotland, the Care Inspectorate, which does have the authority to investigate individual complaints about care providers. Although, as in the rest of the UK, you should first try to resolve the issue directly with the provider. 

The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) sets out codes of practice that social workers, social care staff and their employers should follow. You can raise a concern about a care worker in Scotland with the SSSC.

If you’re unhappy with the provider’s resolution of the complaint, your next step can be to complain to the public service ombudsman. Each country in the UK has its own ombudsman, there is information about this in our getting professional support article. 

If you’re unhappy with an ombudsman’s decision, you can appeal it through a judicial review. This is a complicated process and you would need expert legal help.

Escalating a complaint: local authority-funded care

If the local authority is funding care, complain to them if you’re not satisfied with the provider’s resolution of your complaint. All local authorities are required by law to have an official complaints procedure, which you should be able to find on their website.

The importance of keeping records 

If you take a complaint further, it’s very important to keep accurate records that you can refer back to. Remember to:

  • put everything in writing, where possible, so that there is a record of correspondence
  • keep notes of telephone calls: who you spoke to, when it was and what was said
  • keep notes of meetings: who was there, what was said and what conclusions were reached
  • keep a diary of issues relating to your complaint as evidence of what happened and when. If you witness an incident that you’re unhappy about, write down everything that happened so that you can remember the details accurately.  

Writing a letter of complaint

If you choose to write a letter of complaint, try to include the following information:

  • Outline the problem: who or what has caused your concerns. Try to outline the most important points. If you’re complaining about a member of staff, give their name and position (if you know it).
  • Where and when the events took place.
  • What action you have already taken, if any, and what responses you have had.
  • What results you want from your complaint.

For further advice if you live in England, contact your local Healthwatch organisation, which can tell you if there are any advocacy organisations in your area who can help you progress your complaint.


Healthwatch are the independent national champion for people who use health and social care services. If your complaint relates to social care, it’s always worth letting your local Healthwatch know about any problems so that they can use this to help improve service provision in your area.

There is a local Healthwatch in every area of England and through these teams the organisation finds out what people want. On the Healthwatch website you can locate your local branch and report your experiences of health and social care. No matter how big or small the issue, they want to hear about it.

Further reading

What is unsatisfactory care?

Unsatisfactory care can cover a wide range of issues. We explain the standards you can expect and how to take action.

Last updated: 13 Oct 2020