/ 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.


A few years ago I did make a complaint about my local GP, but I have to admit I didn’t really do anything about it. I didn’t really know much about complaining & it felt like too much work.

But now, in 2014, I know how to kick-off and make a complaint so if it happened now then I would take the complaint as far as i possibly could, as I have learned how to complain and win. Stuff that I didn’t know a few years ago.


When my dad went in for a triple heart bypass a few years ago, that part of his stay went fine. What we have issues with were, they knew he was a type 2 diabetic yet they still insisted on feeding him the same swill as everyone else. That wouldn’t have been a problem if it was wholemeal rolls, non sugary drinks, puddings etc. But when you raise the issue with staff, it was we’re the NHS we know what we’re doing, well they certainly didn’t cos when it was time for him to leave they couldn’t work out why his blood sugar level was sky high. My mum has been feeding him and his diabetes for over 20 years and not once has his blood sugar level reached that high. So he ended up staying in for an extra 2 weeks, will they tried to work out what was up. In the end he ignored the food the hospital provided and was only eating the food smuggled in by my mum. Funnily his blood sugar returned to normal. He wasn’t helped by being inactive but surely the NHS should know all that stuff, and they should certainly listen to their “customers”. They’re not as bright as they’d have you believe.

In their drive to cut costs, they end up wasting more because of the cheap poor nutritional sugar enriched food they serve.

About 5 years ago I had terrible IBS (trust me it was terrible) and in addition ended up having a nervous breakdown (not due to the IBS but I’d bet it was the same reason for the IBS), in all my visits to the doctor all they focused on was my weight. Well my weight hasn’t changed but I’m now no longer employed, and guess what I’ve been IBS and breakdown free for over 3 years now. I knew it was work but the doctor wasn’t interested in that.

Reminds me of a cartoon I once saw, large man goes into a doctors surgery with a gunshot wound. Doctor says “lose some weight and you’ll be fine in no time”.

Completely missing the obvious.

Campbell McPherson says:
15 February 2014

This is typical of the NHS. In the Italian medical system (at least in good hospitals) your diet is strictly controlled according to your medical condition and -if relevant- the surgery.

I had a gall bladder operation a couple of years ago and – disregarding the small issue of a massive infection- my Italian wife was horrified to find me being stuffed with fatty foods the day after the op.

Try complaining? It gives a new meaning to arrogance


When my GP retired she was replaced by a new GP. I was very disappointed that the new GP gave some advice that I knew to be wrong and also failed to complete a ‘yellow card’ to report a potential problem with a new drug. I should have complained about these and other issues but I was not aware of the procedure at the time, so just switched my GP.

That was years ago, but the GP mentioned above is still practising and I have heard of many complaints by others. There are some bad reviews about the GP and surgery on the NHS website.

I chose my present GP surgery based on recommendations and have not been disappointed. The reviews on the NHS website are good too.


My daughter had a very poor consultation with one doctor at our health centre. Back home she complained to the health centre manager who had another doctor phone her; he correctly diagnosed her problem with reference to a website that matched her symptoms. Complaining informally to your practice management is a good place to start.


I was advised to do this, but when I called the surgery and requested a consultation I was refused – I have been complaining vehemently regarding a massive weight gain of 8 stone!! – now my legs have increased in size four fold – I walk 70 miles per month with my little dog and I have been told the massive weight gain in my legs is due to extra muscle – I am completely at my wits end as to know where to go next – I feel I am being drugged without my consent – and that there are those that are doing this maliciously – either the doctors are lying to me or they are being lied to themselves – my doctors have a very good standing and personally are very pleasant people but 8 stone weight gain and morbidly obese – a life time of exercise including yoga walking, sports clubs, jogging and eating health foods (not over eating health foods as it has been stated as an explanation – I would welcome any suggestions as to where might turn for a credible explanation – the ultr sound – and numerous other scans and blood tests I am told are all “normal”

Katy says:
23 June 2017

You need to change surgery. Anyone is able to do this. You don’t have to give an explanation. There are also options to see a private GP, just once to try and find out what is going on. Check out the side-effects of any medicines you’ve been prescribed. You can look online also yourself to see the side-effects and even speak to the drug company customer services and explain the situation.

Debra Barlow says:
10 February 2014

I tried to complain about my GP after I’d ended up seriously ill in hospital when my GP had refused to visit me at home. I wrote a complaint to the practice and was invited to a meeting. It was explained to me that if I took the complaint further I would need to seek another surgery as my complaint was deemed against the practice. I felt I was on a hiding to nothing as the GP clearly stated that though he accepted and was sorry I’d become so ill it was primarily up to me to demand a home visit. It was clear neither he nor he practice was going to accept any responsibility and as I was still recovering and am now left with life changing problems I didn’t have the strength to continue