British Sign Language symbol of two hands signing

Access information about NHS Complaints Advocacy in British Sign Language (BSL)

How can I make a complaint about NHS care or treatment?

If you have a concern about the health care you or someone you know is receiving at the moment, you can ask to speak to a doctor, nurse or manager at the service. If your concern is about a service provided by an NHS Trust (hospitals, mental health services, community health services and ambulance services) you can contact their Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS). PALS (which may also be known as Patient Experience or Service Experience services) can help you resolve your concerns quickly and without having to make a formal complaint. If you are still unhappy after that, or if your concern is about something that has already happened you may want to make a complaint and we are here to help.

You can use the complaints process to complain about any NHS funded treatment including care provided by NHS hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, ambulance services, dentists, district nurses, opticians and mental health services. If the NHS paid for treatment at a private hospital or pays all or part of someone’s care home fees this is also covered by the NHS complaints process.

You can complain about your own care and treatment or someone else’s but you may need to get their consent before the NHS will investigate.

If you have done everything you can to resolve your complaint with the local service and you are not happy with their final decision you can contact the Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). This is the final stage of the NHS Complaints Process.  

If you are not sure whether to make a complaint you can contact us. We will listen and help you decide whether there are other ways of sorting out your concerns. We can also answer questions about the complaints process.

If you want to make your own complaint but are not sure where to start you can download our self-help materials:

NHS Complaints Advocacy step by step guide

Writing an NHS complaint letter

Accessing Patient Medical Records

Large print and Easy Read versions are available below.

How can an NHS Complaints Advocate help me?

If you need help to make your complaint you can use our NHS Complaints Advocacy service which is free, independent of the NHS and confidential.

An Advocate can:

  • Provide information about how to complain including who to complain to
  • Explain the complaints process and your options at each stage
  • Help you to write letters
  • Help you to prepare for complaint meetings and attend with you
  • Help you to refer your complaint to the Health Service Ombudsman if you are not happy with the response you receive from the NHS service
  • Signpost you to other organisations which can help you if we can’t

There are some things which our service can’t help with including:

  • Investigating your complaint
  • Supporting you with a complaint about something that happened more than 12 months ago, unless you have only just found out that something went wrong or you have a good reason for not complaining sooner. This is because the NHS regulations say you should complain within 12 months.
  • Supporting you with a complaint about private health care
  • Supporting you to complain about a medical professional’s fitness to practice (whether they are able to do their job)
  • Giving you legal advice
  • Giving you medical advice

For more information, please see our 'About POhWER NHS Complaints Advocacy booklet' (pdf)

Where do we provide this service?

You can find out if we provide NHS Complaints Advocacy in your area by clicking on the link below. If we don’t provide a service where you live, please call our Help Hub on 0300 456 2370 for information, advice and signposting to other organisations in your area who may be able to help you.

POhWER support in your area

How do I get support from an advocate?

If you would like an advocate to support you with your complaint you can contact us or complete a referral form and send it to us. You can also make a referral for someone else you will need to get their permission first.

NHS Complaints Advocacy referral form (word version)

When we work with you we will ask you to complete a consent form, you can download a form below or we will send you a copy.

Consent form

Consent form in large print

Our NHS Complaints Advocacy leaflet

NHS Complaints Advocacy leaflet (pdf)

Resources in other formats

About POhWER NHS Complaints Advocacy in Easy Read (pdf)

About POhWER NHS Complaints Advocacy in large print (pdf)

NHS Complaints Advocacy step by step guide in large print (pdf)

Writing an NHS complaint letter in large print (pdf)

Accessing Patient Medical Records in large print (pdf)

NHS Complaints Advocacy leaflets in other languages

The PHSO has information to help people with learning disabilities to make a complaint or raise a concern.There are videos, posters and leaflets in easy read format.

NHS Complaints Advocacy in British Sign Language (BSL)