Department of Health complaints process

If you want to make a complaint about the NHS,  social services, the MHRA or the FOI process please go to our page about how to make a complaint.

What is a complaint

We consider a complaint to be any expression of dissatisfaction with a service provided by the Department. This dissatisfaction might arise from the actions of a member of staff, or from an area or programme of work the Department is involved with.

The complaints we receive

Most complaints the Department receives are in response to correspondence  previously sent by the Department, including:

  • the quality and accuracy of information provided in our earlier responses
  • the tone of our correspondence or the attitude of our staff
  • the handling and timeliness of the individual’s correspondence

We try to resolve as many of these complaints as possible at local level by the person who originally dealt with correspondence from that individual.

If the issue is not resolved at this level then it is usually escalated to a more senior line manager or team leader. If the correspondence between both parties continues and the complaint has not been resolved then it becomes necessary to escalate the complaint to the Complaints Manager.

In order to do this, the correspondence will include an explanation of the procedure for making an official complaint to the Department, via the Complaints Manager.

View our complaints performance data.

When to raise a formal complaint

When you have tried to resolve your complaint with the originating section of the Department and this has ultimately failed, then you can register an official complaint to the Department via the Complaints Manager and will be provided with the relevant contact details.

How to make a complaint

You can contact the Department’s Complaints Manager using one of the following methods:

Write to:
Complaints Manager
Customer Service Centre
Department of Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall

Online: using our web contact form. Please write ‘For the attention of the Complaints Manager’ in the subject line.

Phone our Customer Service Centre on 020 7210 4850 (lines are open from 08:30 to 17:30, Monday to Friday, excluding bank holidays)

Our call centre staff will take a note of your complaint and arrange for it to be passed to the Complaints Manager.

By textphone
For people with impaired hearing: 020 7210 5025 (opening hours: 08:30 to 17:30, Monday to Friday)

What you need to provide

You should provide as much information as possible to allow us to investigate your complaint. This should include some or all of the following:

  • your name and a valid email or home address for receipt of reply;
  • a clear description of your complaint;
  • copies of earlier associated correspondence between yourself and the Department; and
  • any valid correspondence case reference numbers.

We aim to respond to all complaints within 20 working days. If we are unable to reply within this time, we will let you know and provide a realistic estimate of when you can expect a reply.

What we do next

Send acknowledgement
Where you have provided a valid email address, we will send an automatic acknowledgement to you on the same day the complaint is recorded. This acknowledgement will explain that we aim to respond to the complaint within 20 working days. If we are unable to reply within this time, we will let you know and provide a realistic estimate of when to expect a reply.

Investigate the complaint
The Complaints Manager then investigates the complaint. This involves a thorough review of all the related and relevant correspondence that the Department has received from and sent to you in relation to your specific complaint. It may also involve liaising with relevant policy officials, correspondence officers or third parties.

The Complaints Manager will form an opinion of whether your original complaint was handled correctly and as well as it could have been. They will consider whether your questions were answered and whether you suffered any kind of injustice or hardship as a result of the Department’s service.

To quote the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO), the outcome of handling the complaint should be to provide a “fair and proportionate” remedy. The Department’s Complaints Manager endeavours to meet this goal.

Escalation to the Ombudsman

If you are not content with the reply that the Complaints Manager provides then the next step is to escalate your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO). Details of how to contact the PHSO will be included in the Complaint Manager’s reply.

You will need to ask your MP to contact the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman at the following address:

The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman
Millbank Tower

Phone: 0845 015 4033

The PHSO exists to provide a service to the public by undertaking independent investigations into complaints that government departments, a range of other public bodies in the UK, and the NHS in England have not acted properly or fairly or have provided a poor service. The Parliamentary Ombudsman draws her powers almost wholly from the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1967, as since amended.

The Ombudsman has the same powers as a court of law. The Department of Health therefore has a legal duty to cooperate fully with any enquiry or investigation that the PHSO carries out in relation to a complaint about the Department and to provide any relevant documents.

Appeals to the Ombudsman

If you are then unhappy with the Ombudsman’s decision you can appeal directly to the Ombudsman.

Once the Ombudsman or one of her senior staff has considered the complaint concerning their decision and sent a response, their decision is then final. They will acknowledge any further correspondence from you but, unless they raise new issues that they consider significant, they will not send further replies.

If you are still unhappy with the outcome you can submit an application for judicial review, usually within three months of the decision.

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