What if you’re unhappy with the care you receive

Most people have a positive experience of the care they receive but problems sometimes occur and you may want to make a complaint. Whether the care is provided at home or in a care home, or you’ve bought a care product such as a mobility aid, it’s important to know your rights.

Your rights to acceptable care standards

Care homes and home care are regulated:

They’re all responsible for ensuring that the care you receive, whether it’s provided at home or in a care home, meets national minimum standards.

These standards aren’t just guidelines – providers have a legal obligation to make sure you’re safe, comfortable and treated with respect. And if things go wrong, you have a legal right to complain.

The role of the UK’s care quality commissions

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, regulatory bodies are responsible for checking that every registered care provider meets important standards of quality and safety – but their duties don’t include dealing with individual complaints about providers’ services.

However, the Care Inspectorate in Scotland will investigate complaints against providers, and has the power to enforce recommendations or even revoke a provider’s operating licence.

How to complain

Getting started

You can clear up a lot of problems by having an informal chat with a member of staff or the manager of the care home or service. But if that doesn’t get a result, or if the member of staff or manager is the problem, you’ll need to make a formal complaint.

By law, all registered health and social care service providers must have a complaints procedure that you can ask to see – it should have been explained to you when you moved in or took up the service.

Ask for a copy of the provider’s complaints policy so you know what to do.

Next steps – complaining to your local authority

If you’re still not satisfied with the response from your care provider, and your local council pays for all or some of your care, you should complain through their social services department. They’ll investigate the complaint and take any appropriate actions.

Complaints to the Ombudsman

If you fund and arrange your own care you should take your complaint directly to the Local Government Ombudsman and/or the Health Service Ombudsman, but only after your care provider has been given a reasonable opportunity to put matters right.

In England

The Local Government Ombudsman should be your first port of call if you feel you need to elevate a complaint made to your local council about residential or nursing care. The Health Service Ombudsman can only consider complaints about the NHS.

In Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland

If you think your case involves criminal negligence or fraud, you should speak to a solicitor. And if you believe there are serious criminal acts taking place, such as physical abuse, theft or other forms of criminal activity, you should contact the police.

Should you keep paying for the care product or service you’re unhappy about?

Don’t withhold payment for a care product or service without first getting professional advice about your rights and responsibilities. Contact your local authority if the care home is run by them, or get advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau.

Getting help and advice to complain

Top tip

Keep copies of any emails and letters you send, and make sure you use recorded delivery for anything you post.

It’s a good idea to ask a friend or relative to help with your complaint, especially if it involves a face-to-face meeting with a manager of the care home or service you’re complaining about.

You can also get advice from:

Complaining about care products

When you buy something, the law gives you certain rights that protect you if it’s faulty or not fit for purpose – that includes equipment or aids to help with mobility or daily tasks. If your council arranged for and purchased a care product for you, report it to them and they should replace it.

If you bought a care product directly, go back to the retailer to ask for a refund or replacement. If you don’t get a satisfactory result, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for help in taking matters further.

If you bought a product or service with a credit card, and the retailer is being difficult, you may get help from your credit card provider. Contact them directly to see what they can do.

Complaining about financial care products

  1. If you’ve purchased a financial care product and you’re not satisfied with the service, ask for a copy of the company’s complaints procedure and launch an official complaint directly with them. Firms regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority are legally obliged to have one.
  2. If you don’t get a satisfactory outcome, contact the Financial Ombudsman Service to complain.
  3. If the Financial Ombudsman Service has considered your complaint and you’re still unhappy, you can take the matter to court. However, bear in mind that in most cases the court is likely to agree with the Financial Ombudsman Service’s decision, and it could be a lengthy and costly process.