Complaints Made Direct to the Commissioner

From 1st July 2023 Complaints made directly to the Commissioner should go to the relevant ICB not NHS England

Ongoing complaints made to NHS England on/after 1st July 2022, this will be passed to the relevant ICB for handling; if made before 1st July 2022, NHS England will continue to handle.

If the complainant is unhappy with the response(s), they may go to the Ombudsman, as per usual.

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Complaints Made Direct to the Practice

Practices must have arrangements for dealing with complaints in line with ‘The Local Authority Social Services and NHS Complaints (England) Regulations 2009’.

Check your practice policy on how to handle a complaint against you.

The key elements of the Regulations are set out below.

A Practice’s arrangements for dealing with complaints must make sure they are:

  • dealt with efficiently;
  • properly investigated;
  • complainants are treated with respect and courtesy;
  • complainants receive, so far as is reasonably practical:
    • assistance to enable them to understand the procedure;
    • advice on where they may obtain assistance;
  • complainants receive a timely and appropriate response;
  • complainants are told the outcome of the investigation of their complaint; and
  • action is taken if necessary in the light of the outcome of a complaint.

A complaint must be made with 12 months of the incident:

  • the date on which the matter which is the subject of the complaint occurred; or
  • if later, the date on which the matter came to the notice of the complainant.

The time limit does not apply if:

  • the complainant had good reasons for not making the complaint within that time limit;
  • notwithstanding the delay, it is still possible to investigate the complaint effectively and fairly.

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Procedure before investigation

A complaint may be made orally, in writing or electronically. Where a complaint is made orally, the responsible body to which the complaint is made must:

  • make a written record of the complaint; and
  • provide a copy of the written record to the complainant.

The complaint must be acknowledged no later than 3 working days after the day on which it is received.

At the time it acknowledges the complaint, the responsible body must offer to discuss with the complainant, at a time to be agreed with the complainant:

  • the manner in which the complaint is to be handled; and
  • the period within which:
    • the investigation of the complaint is likely to be completed; and
    • the response is likely to be sent to the complainant.

If the complainant does not accept the offer of a discussion, the responsible body must:

  • determine the response period and
  • notify the complainant in writing of that period.

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Investigation and Response

A responsible body to which a complaint is made must:

  • investigate the complaint in a manner appropriate to resolve it speedily and efficiently; and
  • during the investigation, keep the complainant informed, as far as reasonably practicable, as to the progress of the investigation.

As soon as reasonably practicable after completing the investigation, the responsible body must send the complainant a response in writing, signed by the responsible person, which includes

  • an explanation of how the complaint has been considered;
  • the conclusions reached in relation to the complaint;
  • confirmation as to whether the responsible body is satisfied that any action needed in consequence of the complaint has been taken or is proposed to be taken;
  • the complainant’s right to take their complaint to the Health Service Commissioner.

If the responsible body does not send the complainant a response in accordance within the relevant period, it must—

  • notify the complainant in writing accordingly and explain the reason why; and
  • send the complainant a written response as soon as practicable.

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Each responsible body must make information available to the public on:

  • its arrangements for dealing with complaints; and
  • how further information about those arrangements may be obtained

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Each responsible body must monitor:

  • each complaint received;
  • the subject matter and outcome of each complaint;
  • the response period specified or any amendment to that period;
  • whether a report of the outcome of the investigation was sent to the complainant within that period or any amended period.

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Annual Reports

Each responsible body must prepare an annual report which specifies the number of complaints:

  • received;
  • which were well-founded;
  • which have been referred to the Health Service Commissioner.

And which summarises:

  • the subject matter of complaints received;
  • any matters of general importance;
  • any matters where action has been or is to be taken to improve services.

The annual report should available to any person on request.

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Covid-19 – GMC Guidance for Doctor Complaints

The GMC has issued guidance for its staff detailing how to take the context created by COVID-19 into account when considering complaints about doctors at COVID-19 specific guidance published for doctor complaints

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Advocacy and Healthwatch Contacts

Hampshire Contacts

Hampshire Advocacy

Healthwatch Portsmouth


Healthwatch Southampton (City)


Healthwatch Hampshire


Dorset Contacts:

Healthwatch Dorset


Wiltshire Contacts:


Swindon Contacts:


BaNES Contacts:


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Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman Guides

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman have now published the new improved Good complaint handling guides for the NHS in England. These guides are part of a range of materials to support organisations we investigate to meet the Complaint Standards.

They have updated the 13 existing guides based on feedback from frontline NHS complaint handlers. The guides are now available as web pages and in pdf format. To make it easier for complaint handlers to find and follow the guidance they have:

  • made the language clearer and more concise
  • given the guides a new design and layout
  • highlighted important points, such as tips and things to remember
  • created an online toolkit with useful resources, including step-by-step guides, sample letters, forms and posters
  • added video content, such as case studies.

They’ve also published a new guide to help organisations capture and record the learning from complaints. They say more guides will be published soon, including guidance on challenging behaviour. Sign up to receive an email alert when new guides and other resources are available.

They’ll continue to improve the guides and other Complaint Standards resources in the future so please do let us know what you think. Email your feedback to

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