Who might you need to complain about?
The following list contains just some examples of professionals who provide NHS services:
- nurses, including community and family nurses
- health visitors
- occupational therapists
- speech therapists
- ambulance staff and paramedics
- sexual health professionals
- professionals working in preventative care, for example, stop smoking clinics
- healthcare professionals working in prison
Remember that you can make a complaint about anyone working in the NHS, even if they aren’t in the list above.
The rules about making a complaint apply to NHS bodies or other organisations who have a contact to provide NHS services. If you have a concern, you can raise it directly with whoever is providing the service. Or you could raise it with whoever buys or commissions the service. It isn’t always easy to know exactly who commissions these services, and therefore who is responsible for them.
Who commissions NHS services?
Clinical commissioning groups
A clinical commissioning group (CCG) is responsible for commissioning:
- community health services such as speech and language therapy, wheelchair services and home oxygen services (but not public health services such as health visiting and family nursing)
- ambulance services
- maternity and new-born services
- children’s healthcare services
- services for people with learning disabilities
- NHS continuing healthcare for most people (but not for prisoners or people serving in the armed forces)
- infertility services for most people (but not for prisoners or people serving in the armed forces)
Here are some of the things that NHS England is responsible for commissioning:
- primary care
- public health services for women who are pregnant and for children aged 0 to 5. This includes health visiting
- ante-natal and newborn screening services
- immunisation programmes
- health services for people in prison and people serving in the armed forces and their families
- pharmaceutical services provided by community pharmacy services
- primary ophthalmic services, NHS sight tests and optical vouchers
- sexual assault referral services
The local authority
The local authority is responsible for commissioning certain health services, for example:
- the healthy child programme for school-age children, including school nursing
- sexual health services, for example, sexual health advice and the testing and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases
- drug and alcohol misuse services, including prevention and treatment
- stop smoking services
If you want to raise concerns or provide feedback about your local public health services, you can complain directly to whoever is providing the service or you can contact the Director of Public Health at your local authority. If you aren’t satisfied with the outcome of your complaint, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman if you think you've suffered injustice because of maladministration by the local authority. Maladministration means the way that the local authority has dealt with a situation or reached a decision.
Healthcare in prisons
Prisoners should have access to the same range and quality of health services, including mental health services, as the general public receives from the NHS. NHS England is responsible for commissioning health services for prisoners.
If a prisoner has problems with their healthcare in prison and wants to make a complaint, they should use the NHS complaints procedure rather than the prison complaints procedure. However, the NHS complaints procedure doesn’t apply in privately-run prisons if the NHS doesn’t have a contract to provide services there. In these cases, the prison should have its own procedure to make complaints about health services.
The prison may have a Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS) which provides information about the NHS and can help to sort out concerns or problems.
The Care Quality Commission
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator for health and social care services. They are responsible for monitoring and inspecting all hospitals, GP practices, dentists and community health services. They don’t investigate individual complaints but they do want to hear about people’s experiences of health care - both good and bad experiences.
If the nurse or midwife is working in an NHS hospital, go to NHS hospital complaints
If the nurse is working in a GP’s surgery, go to Complaints about GPs
Other nurses may work in schools or in the community, for example, as a health visitor or community mental health. You can use the NHS complaints procedure to raise concerns about the care provided by all nurses, health visitors and midwives. They are regulated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) so you could contact the NMC to raise concerns about their fitness to practice.
If you want to complain about a pharmacist working in a hospital, go to NHS hospital complaints.
If your complaint is about high street or community pharmacies, you can use the NHS complaints procedure if they are dispensing NHS prescriptions or providing NHS services. Or you could contact their regulatory body, which is the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPC). The GPC can deal with concerns about the professional conduct of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians or the owners of a pharmacy, and with serious customer service issues such as:
- dosage or labelling mistakes
- criminal behaviour
- being on duty under the influence of drugs or alcohol
The GPC don’t deal with problems to do with non-medical products, such as faulty hairsprays or with issues like the opening hours of a pharmacy or charges made for private prescriptions. Depending on the issue, you might have to use normal consumer complaints procedures if you have a problem with a pharmacy.
Some large supermarkets have pharmacy outlets in their stores. The supermarket isn't responsible for the professional conduct or customer services of pharmacy outlets.
Optometrists and dispensing opticians
Optometrists carry out eye tests to check the quality of your sight. They prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses. Like eye surgeons (ophthalmologists), they examine the internal and external structure of your eyes to detect diseases like glaucoma, and cataracts. Optometrists don’t perform surgery. If necessary, the optometrist will refer you on to a specialised doctor or eye surgeon for treatment.
Dispensing opticians fit and sell glasses but they don’t test eyes. They can give you advice on types of lens, such as single vision or bifocal and help you to choose frames. If you go to a high-street opticians, you'll have your eyes tested by an optometrist but you don’t have to buy your glasses there. You could take an optometrist's prescription to a dispensing optician who will sell you the glasses you need.
If you aren’t happy with the service or treatment provided by your optometrist or dispensing optician, you can use the NHS complaints procedure but only if the problem is with services provided under an NHS contract. For example, you could use the NHS complaints procedure to sort out a problem about NHS optical vouchers to pay for glasses if you’ve got the right to help towards these costs.
If the complaint is about the professional conduct of an optometrist or dispensing optician, you can report them to their regulatory body, The General Optical Council (GOC). If the complaint is about an ophthalmic medical practitioner, you should make it to the General Medical Council (GMC).
However, neither the GOC or the GMC has the legal power to deal with complaints about the standard of service carried out by an optician, or the quality of glasses or contact lenses. For these sorts of problems, you should use the general procedures to deal with any consumer problem.
The Optical Consumer Complaints Service is an independent service which can help with consumer problems about opticians.Their website is www.opticalcomplaints.co.uk and to get in touch with them, go to: www.opticalcomplaints.co.uk/get-in-touch.
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.
You may be someone who works for the NHS and is concerned about unsafe work practices or lack of care by other professionals. There are special procedures to follow to raise your concerns.
- NHS and adult social care services complaints - deciding what outcomes you want to achieve
- Deciding whether you should make a complaint about the NHS
- Checklist to help you decide whether to make a complaint about health or adult social care services
- NHS complaints process flowchart
- How to make a complaint about NHS services
- Complaining to a clinical commissioning group about services they commissioned
- Complaining to NHS England about procedures, or services they commissioned
- Problems with NHS and adult social care - complaining to the Care Quality Commission
- Health and adult social care regulatory bodies - reporting professional misconduct or concerns about fitness to practice
- NHS complaints - taking legal action
- Clinical negligence in the NHS - taking legal action
- Organisations that can help you make a complaint about health services