How to complain or raise concerns about health services
If you are not happy with the treatment you receive from the health and social care service, the quality of care provided by a nursing home or treatment you have paid for at a private clinic, you have the right to raise a concern or raise a complaint.
How you can raise a concern or complaint
There are many ways to raise your concern or complaint.
- face to face
- by phone
- in a letter
- by email
You should try to give details of:
- how to contact you
- who or what you are complaining about
- where and when the event that caused your complaint happened
- if possible, what you would like to be done to address your complaint
You should try to complain as soon as possible, usually within six months of you becoming aware that you have a cause for complaint and normally no longer than 12 months after the event.
But you don’t have to wait. If you are unhappy with something, you can speak to any of the staff who are dealing with your treatment or care and they will try to resolve your concerns straight away.
You can also raise a concern or complain on someone else’s behalf, although you will generally need their consent.
Services you can complain about
You can raise a concern or make a complaint about any of the following health services:
- Health and Social Care Services
- Family Practitioner Services
- Regulated establishments and agencies
- Independent sector providers
- Self-funded care or treatment
For more information on each of these service areas see below.
Health and Social Care services
If you have a concern or complaint about a health and social care service, such as those services provided in a hospital or social care services provided in the community, you can raise your concern or complaint with the complaints manager at your local health and social care Trust.
Family practitioner services
If you have a concern or complaint about services provided by family practitioner services such as family doctors, dentists, pharmacist or optician, you should in the first instance make your complaint to the practice or practitioner for local resolution.
Regulated establishments and agencies
If you have a concern or complaint about services provided by a regulated establishment or agency such as residential home, nursing home or domiciliary care agency, you should in the first instance raise your concerns or make your complaint to the service provider for local resolution where possible.
This may be with the manager of the home or the registered person for the establishment.
You can contact the HSC Trust who have commissioned the care either on your behalf or your family member’s behalf.
If you need to contact the Trust, contact the Trust’s complaints manager.
Independent sector providers
If you have a concern or complaint about services provided by an independent sector provider, such as a private clinic, you should in the first instance raise your concerns or make your complaint to the service provider for local resolution where possible.
This could be either through their complaints department, local management or registered person for the establishment.
If the treatment you received was commissioned by a HSC Trust, you can also contact the HSC Trust who will investigate your concern or complaint as part of their Trust complaints process.
Self-funded care or treatment
If you have self-funded your care or treatment, or a family member's, such as residential or nursing home care or private treatment with an independent sector provider, you should in the first instance raise your concerns or make your complaint to the service provider for local resolution where possible.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA)
While the RQIA does not have the legal powers to investigate individual complaints about health and social care services, regulated establishments and agencies, independent sector providers or about self-funded care, if a concern is raised with RQIA about these services, they will use this information to inform their inspection or review work.
Help with making a complaint
HSC Trust staff or the Patient Client Council can give you information on how to raise a concern or make a complaint about health and social care services provided by the Trust or commissioned by the Trust from regulated establishments and agencies or independent healthcare providers.
The Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) of the Department of Health can provide you with help about family practitioner services.
Patient and Client Council support service
The Patient and Client Council (PCC) offer a freephone support service to support the public with questions, concerns or complaints they may have within their health and social care.
They are also able to help the public with navigating their care should it be affected by pressures being faced by the Health Service caused by coronavirus (COVID-19).
Answering your concern or complaint
Your complaint will be acknowledged within two or three working days of receipt.
You should receive a full response within 10 working days if your complaint was about a family doctor, dentist, pharmacist or optician and made directly.
If the complaint has been made with the help of the SPPG Complaints Team a response takes 20 working days.
If your complaint was about a hospital or social care service, you should receive a full response within 20 working days.
Some complaints take longer to resolve than others. You should be told if this is the case and be given an explanation.
If you're not satisfied with the response
If you are not happy with the final decision of the provider organisation, you can refer your complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO).
NIPSO will look at your complaint and decide whether they should investigate it.
Belfast Health and Social Care TrustComplaints Department
McKinney House (7th Floor)
Musgrave Park Hospital
- telephone: 028 9504 8000
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- website: Compliments and complaints
Northern Health and Social Care TrustComplaints and Service User Feedback Department
South Eastern Health and Social Care TrustComplaints Department
Ards Community Hospital
Western Health and Social Care TrustComplaints Department
Trust Headquarters, MDEC Building
Altnagelvin Area Hospital
- telephone: 028 7134 5171 ext 214142
- direct dial: 028 7161 1226
- email: email@example.com
- website: Western HSC Trust
Southern Health and Social Care TrustService User Feedback Team
Craigavon Area Hospital site
68 Lurgan Road
- telephone: 028 3756 4600
- email: ServiceUserFeedback@southerntrust.hscni.net
- website: Southern HSC Trust
NI Ambulance Service Health and Social Care TrustService User Feedback Manager
Headquarters, Site 30, Knockbracken Healthcare Park
Department of Health Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG)
Formerly Health and Social Care Board (HSCB)Complaints Office
12-22 Linenhall Street
Patient and Client CouncilThe Patient and Client Council
14-16 Great Victoria Street
- freephone: 0800 9170 222
- freepost: Patient and Client Council
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- website: Patient and Client Council
Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority7th Floor, Victoria House
15-27 Gloucester Street
- telephone: 028 9536 1111
- email: email@example.com
- website: Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority
Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO)Progressive House
33 Wellington Place
- telephone: 028 9023 3821
- freepost: NIPSO
- freephone: 0800 34 34 24 (Monday to Thursday 9.00 am to 1.00 pm)
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- website: Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman
Business Services OrganisationComplaints Office
6th Floor, 2 Franklin Street
- telephone: 028 9536 0698 and 0300 555 0113
- email: email@example.com
- website: Business Services Organisation
Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion ServiceComplaints Co-ordinator
Public Health AgencyComplaints Office
Level 4, 12-22 Linenhall Street