healthcare complaints

Our GPs, hospitals and specialist services most often do a great job. However, occasionally, you may not be happy with the treatment your child receives or, in extreme cases, feel you have a right to compensation or legal redress.

This page tells you how to go about making a complaint about healthcare.

Resolving it yourself
It’s almost always best to start with the person most directly involved. Quite often complaints turn out to be due to misunderstandings and can be cleared up quickly by a conversation or letter. But, if this doesn’t work and you need to go to someone else within the service, a complaint can sometimes put things right not only for you, but also for others coming after you. 
If you can’t resolve the issue yourself, the best place to go for advice about health complaints is Healthwatch. Healthwatch is a local watchdog service that offers advice and information about health and health-related services.

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove

Healthwatch East Sussex

They can tell you where to go next. They can link you up with the PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) for the right health trust who may be able to resolve concerns locally and informally through liaison with the relevant NHS staff, without making a formal complaint. Or they can refer you to the Independent Complaints and Advocacy Service (ICAS) who can help you to make a formal complaint.

Brighton & Hove ICAS: POhWER

East Sussex ICAS: The Advocacy People

Stage one formal complaint - local resolution
If you decide to complain formally the NHS has a two stage process. Stage one is ‘local resolution’ and is about trying to sort out your complaint with the local bit of the health service responsible for the service or issue in your complaint.

At stage one you will need to address your complaint to the Chief Executive of the organisation involved with delivering the care. Each Trust will have information outlining their complaints procedures and your local ICAS will help you find this.

Stage two – Health Service Ombudsman
If you are not happy with the outcome of your local complaint you can go to stage two – the Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is independent of the NHS and the service is free and confidential. Again Healthwatch can give information about taking complaints to the Ombudsman and ICAS can give impartial advice (Visit ICAS Brighton & Hove or ICAS East Sussex).

The Care Quality Commission monitors and inspects many health care services to ensure that they meet quality and safety standards. This includes hospitals, GPs, dentists and mental health services. You can raise a concern or complain to the CQC about a service or provider if you’re still unhappy after following their complaints procedure.

It won’t be any good going to local councillors about things which are only to do with health, as they don’t have responsibility for health services, but you can try your MP.

Appealing health and social care aspects of EHC plan decisions
Since the 3rd April 2018, the SEND First-tier Tribunal may make recommendations about the health and social care aspects of an Education, Health and Care plan. Health and social care services are not legally required to follow these recommendations but they would need to provide a strong argument to go against the recommendation of the tribunal. We explain here in more detail about the rights of appeal in EHC needs assessments & plans.
Compensation for medical accidents
If you believe your child has been the victim of a medical accident and could be entitled to financial compensation, you might want to consider taking legal action against the person or establishment concerned. Of course, a good financial settlement would make a huge difference to a child’s long term future, as well as to the peace of mind of parents and siblings. However, it is as well to be aware of the possible drawbacks. You could speak to Healthwatch first to look at other ways of resolving the issue.

Lawsuits can be very expensive, and unless you win you will not get your costs paid. Legal Aid is unlikely to be available. The process can take a very long time, sometimes years. You will need plenty of stamina and, above all, good legal advice. If you do decide to carry on with legal action, you can get free preliminary advice from Action for Victims of Medical Accidents (AVMA). They can tell you whether your case is worth pursuing and can also suggest a good solicitor.


We had quite a problem because the hospital was very, very busy … we went to visit her and she was fitting and nobody was with her, and it was really horrific, and we had to do something about that so we discharged her right away. But we went and talked to the sister and she was brilliant, and she said ‘please complain’.
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