What if I'm unhappy with the care I received

Know your rights and find out how to make a complaint about care provided at home, in a care home, in hospital, or a care product you’ve bought.

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.

Did you know?

You have the right to complain about any aspect of NHS care, treatment or services. See Complaining about NHS heath care below.

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 do I 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.

They should have 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.

Complaining to your local authority

If your local authority pays for all or some of your care and you’re not satisfied with the response from your care provider, complain through the local authority’s social services department.

They’ll investigate the complaint and take any appropriate actions. If you’re unhappy with the outcome, you can take it to the Ombudsman.

Complaints if you fund your own care

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.

Complaints to the Ombudsman

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 authority about residential or nursing care.

The Health Service Ombudsman can only consider complaints about the NHS.

If you think your case involves criminal negligence or fraud, speak to a solicitor.

And if you believe there are serious criminal acts taking place, contact the police. For example, physical abuse, theft or other forms of criminal activity.

Should I keep paying for a care product or service I’m not happy with?

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 NHS healthcare

You have the right to make a complaint about any aspect of NHS care, treatment or service – this is written into the NHS Constitution.

If you’re not happy with an NHS service, it’s usually a good idea to discuss your concerns early on with the service provider. They might be able to sort the issue out quickly.

If you’re not satisfied with their response you can make a complaint. Find out how to complain where you live:

It’s often helpful to talk to someone who understands the complaints process first, to get some guidance and support. You’ll find a Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) in most hospitals.

^Find out more about PALS on the NHS website.

Regulatory bodies

The NHS is regulated:

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. This includes equipment or aids to help with mobility or daily tasks.

If your local authority arranged for, and bought, a care product for you – report it to them and they should replace it.

If you bought a care product from a retailer, ask them for a refund or replacement.

If you’re not happy with the result, contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau for help to take matters further.

If you bought a product or service with a credit card, and the retailer is being difficult, contact your card provider to see what they can do.

Find out more in our Credit card and debit card protection explained guide.

Complaining about financial care products

  1. If you’ve bought a financial product to pay for your care and you’re not satisfied with the service, ask for a copy of the company’s complaints procedure. Then launch an official complaint with them. Firms regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority are legally obliged to have one.
  2. If you’re not happy with the result, contact the Financial Ombudsman Serviceopens in new window 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 long and expensive process.

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