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How do I write a letter of complaint to the NHS?

If you believe that you have received negligent treatment from the NHS, you are entitled to make a complaint using the NHS complaints procedure. The steps to making a complaint are outlined below:

Who is eligible to make a complaint?

You are eligible to make a complaint about the service or treatment that you received from the NHS as long as you:

  • Are the person who received the treatment/services from the medical practitioner or health trust.
  • Are the person who has been affected by the action, omission or decision of the trust that you wish to make a complaint to.

You are also eligible to complain on behalf of someone else if the person affected:

  • Died as a result.
  • Is a child under the age of 18.
  • Is physically or mentally incapacitated.

What are the exemptions to the complaint’s procedure?

It is not possible to use the official NHS complaints procedure if:

  • You made a verbal complaint which was acted upon to your satisfaction by the end of the next working day.
  • Your complaint has already been investigated under the NHS complaints procedure.
  • Your complaint has been, or is the middle of an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.
  • You are an employee of the NHS who is making a complaint about an employment issue.

Is there a time limit to making a complaint?

A formal complaint to the NHS should be made within 12 months of the date of the negligent treatment. Or as soon as you are made aware that you have been affected by negligent treatment i.e. a late or misdiagnosis.

How do I start the complaints procedure?

To start the complaints procedure, there are a number of things that you should do first including:

  • Speaking to the ward manager of the hospital or practice manager of the GP surgery in which the treatment took place.
  • If your complaint is regarding the treatment that you received in hospital, you can find out who the best person is to contact from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS).
  • It is important to keep note of:
    • The dates and times when you spoke to someone
    • The name of the person that you spoke to and the names of any other person(s) present.
    • What exactly was discussed, the response from the person that you were complaining to, and details of what action would be taken next.

Local resolution

If it was not possible to resolve the issue after talking to management, the next stage would be to start the complaints procedure through local resolution. This involves writing a formal letter to:

  • The body which provides the service:
    • For hospitals this is a clinical commissioning group
    • For GP services this is NHS England

Preparing your letter of complaint:

It is key to make your letter of complaint as accurate and coherent as possible. Whilst it is understandable that being the victim of medical negligence can be very emotional, it is important to ensure that only the facts and relevant details of what happened are included.

What to include in the letter:

1.Include your personal details:

Name, address, telephone number and email address.

2. Opening paragraph: 

  • Include the exact and specific reasons for writing your complaint.
  • Include your full name, date of birth and NHS number.
  • State if you are making a complaint on behalf of someone else and include their details if so.

3. Main body of the complaint letter:

  • Explain in a coherent and concise manner the nature of your complaint. Including:
    • Exactly what you believe went wrong and what should have been done better.
    • Set out the dates and times of medical appointments in chronological order.
    • What was said and explained (or failed to be explained) to you by the medical professional.

4. Ask questions: 

  • When making a complaint, a good way to get a response from the NHS is to ask specific questions that you want an answer to.
  • A good way to set out any questions that you have is to bullet point or number these at the end of your letter.

5. Conclude your letter: 

  • Finish your letter by stating how you have followed the NHS complaints procedure and set out that you expect to receive a response in a reasonable period of time.

6. Include any evidence: 

  • Including evidence that you believe will help to support your case and illustrate your cause for concern. Evidence can come in the form of copies of:
    • Appointment cards
    • Written notes
    • Details of correspondence

Next steps

After you have sent the letter, you should expect to receive a receipt of your complaint within three working days. There isn’t a however a set time frame on when you will receive a response to your complaint. If you have not heard back from the service provider within six months, they should explain to you the reasons behind the delay.

You can then choose to escalate your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. This is a free service that makes the final decisions on complaints that haven’t been resolved by the NHS. You can also seek independent legal advice from a medical negligence specialist solicitor at any point.

Seeking legal advice

Alongside making an official complaint direct to the NHS, you may also decide to seek legal advice from a specialist medical negligence solicitor about making a claim. True Solicitors are experienced in bringing clinical negligence claims against the NHS; getting our clients access to the rehabilitation and compensation that they deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation assessment of your case.

Do not hesitate to contact us on 0344 854 7000 for advice on claiming the compensation that you deserve. You can also fill out our free enquiry form or email us at for more information.

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