How to make a complaint about health or social care

Are you unhappy with your experience of healthcare services in Southwark?
Man on phone

Do you want the issue to be investigated and to receive a formal explanation of what happened, and assurances about what improvements will be made?

If you wish to complain formally, use the words ‘Formal complaint’ and include as much detail as you can about the issue, giving dates and names of people involved as well as your own details. It is useful to bear in mind what you would like to happen as a result of making the complaint.

If you are complaining on behalf of someone else, include their written consent with your letter. However, consent is not required if you are making a complaint in the name of a deceased person or someone who lacks the capacity to make their own decisions, including some children.

Who do I complain to about a Primary Care service? (this includes GPs, dentists, pharmacies and opticians) 


Raise the issue with the primary care service directly. You can ask to talk to the practice manager or ask for details about the complaints policies and procedures. These are often available on a service’s website.


Contact the commissioners. For primary care services, the commissioner is NHS England. To complain about a service to them, contact 0300 311 22 33 or

Who do I complain to about a hospital trust’s service? (this includes many community services, such as sexual health clinics, foot care services, and Community Mental Health Teams)

Each hospital trust has a Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS). They help patients and their families with queries and concerns about their healthcare experiences. They can also tell you about how to make a formal complaint. Alternatively, you can go straight to the complaints team.

The contact details for PALS and complaints can be found by following these links: 

Who do I complain to about a social care service? (e.g. home care services or nursing homes)


Raise the issue with the provider directly.


Complain to Southwark Council, which commissions many social care services locally. They are also in charge of social care assessments and social workers.

I’ve made a complaint to the provider OR the commissioner, but am unhappy with the response. What do I do next? 

You should not complain to both the provider itself and the commissioner – this will delay getting the issue resolved. Instead, if you are unhappy with the response to your complaint, next you can submit a complaint to:

  • The Parliamentary & Health Service Ombudsman, if your complaint is about healthcare. To find out more information about making a complaint, you can call the Ombudsman on 0345 015 4033 or visit their website.

  • OR the Local Government Ombudsman, if your complaint is about social care. To find out more information about making a complaint, you can call the Ombudsman on 0300 061 0614 or visit their website.