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Telling people about our service

Organisations should make sure people know we’re the final stage for complaints that haven’t been resolved through the organisation’s own complaints process. This applies to small NHS organisations like GP and dental practices as well as larger ones like hospitals or government departments.

It’s important that people complain to your organisation first and give you a chance to respond to their concerns, before they come to us. But if someone isn’t happy with how your organisation has answered their complaint, they need to know they have a right to come to us with it.

Here are our tips to help you make sure people know when and how to use our service:

1 Tell people about us 

Explain our role in any information you give out about your complaints process. This includes on your website as well as in any leaflets or letters where you talk about how your organisation deals with complaints. Here’s some wording you might like to use: 

If you’re not happy with how we’ve dealt with your complaint, and would like to take the matter further, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The Ombudsman makes final decisions on complaints that have not been resolved by the NHS, government departments and some other public organisations. Their service is free for everyone. To take a complaint to the Ombudsman, go to www.ombudsman.org.uk or call 0345 015 4033.

2 Be clear in your final response

When you give your final response to a complaint, be clear that it is your final response and explain what someone can do next if they want to take the matter further. The NHS Regulations make this a requirement.

Every year lots of people come to us with their complaints before they have been through the local process. You can help people to know when is the right time to come to us in the information you give them.

3 Explain the time limits

Let people know they need to bring their complaint to us as soon as possible. There are time limits for us to look into complaints and although we can and do sometimes make exceptions, we don’t want people to miss their chance to get a final, independent decision on their complaint.

4 Tell people about our online complaints form

People can go online to bring a complaint to us. We have an online form for NHS complaints and a downloadable form for complaints about other organisations. Filling in our form means we get all the information we need to start looking into the complaint straightaway. We can also take complaints over the phone and in writing, if people prefer to complain that way. More about our complaint forms.

5 Use our signposting leaflet

Our short leaflet, How we can help you (PDF 1.7MB), is aimed at people who have completed the local complaints process who might want to take things further. We’ve designed it for organisations to give to people when they send them their final response to a complaint. It’s available to download from our website. If you would like printed copies to pass on to people, please email us at publications@ombudsman.org.uk