/ Health

Have you ever complained about your doctor or hospital?

People leaving hospital

One year on from the Francis Inquiry, there are still significant problems with consumers choosing not to complain about public services because they don’t know who to complain to or think nothing will be done.

With public service reform high on the policy agenda, our research shows more needs to be done to ensure consumers feel empowered and their voices are heard.

We’ve found there are three key reasons why people do not complain when they have a problem with public services: scepticism that their complaint will have any impact, fear of repercussions, and lack of understanding about how to complain.

Will complaining about my doctor really help?

Four in 10 people who had had a recent problem with a specialist consultant in a hospital did not complain. Of these, almost six in 10 said the reason was that they thought nothing would be done and four in 10 thought it wouldn’t be worth the effort.

A third of people said that they were worried complaining might lead to worse service or treatment for them or their family member and 27% said gave the same reason for not complaining about a GP. One in five didn’t complain when they had a problem with a specialist consultant because they didn’t know how to complain or who to complain to.

The best private sector organisations actively encourage and welcome feedback so it’s worrying to see so many barriers to consumers speaking up in public services.

And it’s not just within the NHS. Just two thirds (65%) of those who had cause to complain about an NHS service in the last year did so, and a similar percentage (69%) complained about another Government service such as the DVLA or HMRC. Yet 90% of people complained about a high street retailer when in a similar situation, 89% about a bank or tradesperson and 83% about an energy supplier.

Our research has also shown that people’s fears that they won’t be listened to are perhaps justified as, even when people do complain, perceived resolution of complaints is lower in public services. Almost six in 10 people who complained to an NHS or Government service felt their complaint was not resolved at the initial stage, in comparison with 42% for energy suppliers and banks and 30% for high street retailers.

Inspect services with high levels of complaints

While the Government has announced new measures around complaints since the public inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, Which? is calling for three further steps to be taken to help drive up consumer power in public services:

  • An automatic trigger for regulators to inspect any service with abnormally high levels of unresolved consumer complaints or where users demand an inspection.
  • A single public services ombudsman should be introduced so consumers know exactly where to take their complaint.
  • Super complaint powers expanded and strengthened to the equivalent of those in private markets.

It’s clear that more must be done to ensure that patients and their families use their power to help drive up standards in public services. Hearing feedback from people is essential to deliver the high standards that we all deserve. We need to see changes across all public services to improve complaints handling and give people the confidence that their voices will be both heard and acted upon.


I am on several tablets for heart-blood pressure problems,and up to recently,I was scheduled a visit for a revue every 6 months,but last year my prescrition showed 12 monthly issues.So when I next went to the doctors I asked if this was government policy,he replied no it was the surgerys doing (rationalising their proceedurs).I said I thought the elderly might need more attention rather than less.Especially as my visit was a follow up because my blood pressure was up the month before,and my family history shows my both my mother and father suffered strokes,and my 3 older brothers and sister all died of heart attacks before the age 60 and I suffered one aged 63,but had bypass sugery which I must say has served me well.
When doctors were on 30 od thousand a year,I stood in their corner,but since rhey got a large salary increase,the service we get seems to have gone downhill.


How topical is this – happened just last week.

Wednesday: Cut my hand and finger on wire mesh.
Thursday: Woke up with swollen and inflamed finger – phoned GP surgery for same day
appointment – possible antibiotic and tetanus injection. No luck – earliest
appointment next morning 10am.
Friday: Arrive GP surgery 9.50am – no parking spaces – car park full – cars parked on
road on double yellow lines more cars piling in behind me. Waited until 10am
with engine running – appointment missed – gave up – went home.
Friday pm: ‘Phoned GP surgery explained reason for missed appointment offered another
one possibly Monday – too late for effective treatment – declined decided A&E best
Saturday: Letter of complaint sent to Practice Manager at GP surgery.

Is this just another example why A&E Dept’s are having trouble coping?


I have nothing but praise for the reaction received from my Medical Practice concerning the above. As a result of my letter of complaint I have received sincere apologies by ‘phone by the Practice Manager followed by very swift and prompt action by a member of the medical team which secured all the necessary treatment without delay.

I can only express my appreciation to Richard Lloyd and the Which? Team for their excellent timing which provided me with the impetus to write the letter of complaint and for me produced the necessary right results.


Hi Beryl, We’re really delighted to hear your feedback resulted in prompt action from your practice. Thanks for letting us know (and get well soon). Best wishes, Charlotte

janet keenan says:
25 April 2015

I need help for my brother, he will not be given another GP because he missed so many appointments.
He is ill, and my dad was dying of cancer at the time so no appointments could be fulfilled by my brother to suit arrangements. I dont know what I can do to help him now, but he has asked me to help and I dont know where to start…Oh yes a letter has been sent, but the NHS are just fobbing him off. I do not want to lose my brother as my dad died only a year ago.
Please if anyone can help me?. Let me know.


Hi Janet, thanks for your comment and I hope your brother gets better soon. We’d recommend that he may like to contact Citizens Advice about his rights.

Here is some more information, and it may well be in his interests to contact his local Clinical Commissioning Group (organises GP services in his area) to see how it can help:


Whichever route you use for help, I certainly hope that you and your brother are able to get this matter resolved to your satisfaction.


Trying to raise issues to Complaints or via PALS get maladministrated and you blamed to point of security being used against you.This has only happened to me since the NHS call centres & Specialists have operated like this since Thatchers Cuts have taken over .Worst is GMC where the Heads job is done by a PA or several .The NHS constitution is a joke as nobody seeing it is observed.This is no care in the community and many have and will die prematurely, Just check the ststistics.


A few years ago I went to PALS with my concerns, a meeting was set up which turned out to be a Kangaroo court where I was on trial.

It was indeed a “set-up”….the consultant involved, the department clinical lead and the department manager ,with a convenient nurse grade witness,conspired to provoke and entrap me.

Assertion and persistence in the face of contempt resulted in the following:

Manager: “Don’t speak to my staff like that! If you do, you will not get treatment!”

Pateo: “I am already not getting treatment; that is why I am here just now. I am plainly wasting my time, so I will leave now” ( Stands up)

Manager: ” Just a minute. Please sit down.”

I sat down, thinking manager has relented…he went to telephone and calls security.

Two large, heavy gentlemen who can only be described as thuggish arrived and escorted me and my carer/assistant from the premises…closely and oppressively and obviously desiring to provoke an incident..instigated by the manager.

I was then 60, suffering ME/CFS quite badly as well as having cervical spinal osteo-arthritis with a lumbar fusion. Shortly afterwards I received an award of DLA for Care and Mobility needs…I am not a large person and use a walking stick, mainly as an aid for balance.

Outside the hospital precinct, on the public highway, my care-person, a mature,intelligent graduate, attempted to engage the combat dressed bully boys in a consciousness raising conversation…she was brutally seized and handcuffed…which I witnessed from a distance.

As I remonstrated and made towards them, one of the thugs attacked me, forced me to the ground, knelt on me and applied a carotid block, rendering me helpless, handcuffed and dragged me to one side…as if I were a tough young and hostile adversary, not a fragile and disabled elder.

I was arrested and taken to the police station where I remained of the rest of the day..my carer was immediately released to make her own way the police station..and she a stranger in the city…a “damsel” in distress.

I was bailed to return to the police station four weeks later, kept all day again before being released without charge on the grounds that CPS deemed the evidence “insufficient to prosecute” (!)

Complaint to the Trust Executive resulted in a barrage of spurious allegations dressed up as facts. The Mangers “Incident Report” demonstrated a hastily contrived mishmash of lies and inconsistencies.

I was excluded from the Trust for one year.

After many months of fruitless correspondence, I formally withdrew my consent for treatment by any department of that Trust in the future, and that in case I should be taken to the A&E by emergency services, I was not to be admitted but referred to another, neighbouring Trust.

Subsequently, when I obtained a copy of all my patient records held at the Trust, I discovered that the covert reaction was for my “Main Reception” page which is viewed on arrival for any appointment was marked with the ‘Special Conditions’ : “PLEASE NOTIFY SECURITY / POLICE OF APPT. TIMES/DAY “.

This note is dated 17th May 2007 more than 8 months following the totally spurious allegations of assault by a frail elderly patient on a large professional thug on 7th SEPTEMBER 2006, and plainly intended to cause further aggravation, escalation and vindication…vindication of professional malpractice, malfeasance in public office and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.