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How to write a letter of complaint

The letter should clearly outline your complaint and should ask for it to be investigated under the NHS Complaints Procedure. If you are writing on behalf of someone else who is a patient, rather than for yourself, you must show that you have the patient’s permission.

Helpful tips

Be brief

  • Try to keep your complaint to no more than two pages.
  • Be careful not to lose your main points in a long letter.
  • If the complaint is long and complex attach a log sheet or diary of events with details.

Be clear and straightforward

  • Use short sentences.
  • Don’t be afraid to say what has upset you, but avoid aggressive or accusing language.
  • Don’t repeat yourself.

Be constructive

  • Your complaint is an opportunity to improve things.
  • Put your concerns politely, but firmly.
  • Explain what you would like to achieve as a result of your complaint for example an apology, an explanation, a service improvement, any other remedy.

Keep copies

  • Keep a copy of all letters or emails sent and received, in date order and a note of all telephone calls made.

Send photocopies of documents, not originals

  • Keep the original documents in your possession.

What happens next?

You should receive a letter of acknowledgement which is normally within 5 working days, but this will vary with each service.

The NHS should contact you to discuss your complaint and arrange a plan to resolve your concerns with you. This means that they will discuss how best to resolve your concerns and what you hope to achieve from raising them. They should also agree with you a timescale for resolving the issues and keep you informed of progress. The suggested timescales can be influenced by things like how many staff they need to speak to, how easy it is for them to access your medical records and if other NHS organisations are involved in your complaint. If there is a problem in keeping to this timescale they should contact you before it expires to agree an amended timescale.

If your complaint involves a service that is provided in partnership with the NHS, the
organisation that received your complaint will approach the other organisations. You may need to include the following paragraph so that each NHS organisation can share information and co-ordinate the investigation.

“I understand in accordance with regulation 9 of the Local Authority Social Services and National Health Service Complaints (England) Regulations 2009, where the episode of care relates to more than one NHS healthcare professional, there is duty upon the Trust to co-ordinate the complaints handling and ensure a co-ordinated response is provided. Therefore, I ask that you could liaise between yourselves to discuss who shall take the lead on my complaint and I ask that I am provided with a co-ordinated response. I authorise you to contact and exchange information between NHS organisations.”

Between themselves they will agree who will:

  • Take the lead in handling the complaint.
  • Be your point of contact and take responsibility for communicating with you.
  • Co-ordinate the handling of the complaint and any investigations.
  • Ensure you receive a single response, addressing all issues agreed at the outset.

If you need more advice on writing a letter of complaint, or at any point during the complaint process, please contact NHS Complaints Advocacy Stockport.

Example framework for a first letter of complaint

Insert your name, address
and telephone number

The Chief Executive
The Hospital


Re: NHS Complaint – Complainant name, Date of Birth

I would like to raise a complaint in line with the current NHS complaints procedure about the treatment I received from [name(s) of staff] at [place where incident happened/treatment received] on [date of incident/period of treatment].

OR [if you are acting on behalf of the patient]

I would like to raise a complaint on behalf of [insert name of patient], and I enclose their written agreement to act on their behalf. [If the patient is unable to give consent for example, if they are too young, ill or deceased, then you should explain this].

Describe (in bullet points if you wish)

  • What happened,
  • When, and
  • Where.

If you were unable to recall events because you were undergoing surgery (for instance) include information provided by third parties and how they were made aware of this.

If you have a log sheet or list of events, you can attach this as a separate sheet and refer to this here. Explain what, if anything, you have already done to try to resolve matters.

  • Put the most important matters first.
  • Explain why you are not satisfied.
  • Be clear and brief.
  • Number or bullet your points.
  • Ask the questions you would like the answers to and list them in order of importance.

Intended Outcomes

Say what you want to achieve, for example:

  • An explanation of what happened.
  • An apology.
  • Action to remedy the problem you experienced, by a named person.

I look forward to receiving your acknowledgement of this letter. I would like you to carry out a full investigation into my concerns and provide a response in accordance with the NHS Complaints Procedure.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need further information.

Yours faithfully
Your signature
Print your name

If you are sending copies of your letter to other people, show this here.
cc. Other person

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