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How to start a complaint

 The first stage of a complaint is called local resolution. You can start local resolution by making your complaint in person, in writing or by email. It’s generally best to make it in writing (see ‘Writing a Complaint Letter’).

Helpful Hints

Whichever method you use, make sure you state that you are starting the complaints procedure.

Give full details of the problem, including the name of any staff members involved. Make your description as short and clear as possible. Focus on the main issues, and leave out irrelevant details.

Don’t be afraid to say what has upset you, but try to avoid using aggressive language or making personal attacks

You should also say what outcome you would like, for example, an explanation or apology or promises that lessons have been learnt.

You are entitled to ask for a local resolution meeting if you feel it would help to talk face-to-face to talk about your complaint (see ‘local resolution meetings.

If you complain in writing, keep a copy of everything you post, and make a note of when you sent the letter. If you need to enclose other documents, only send copies and keep the originals. You might want to send your letter by recorded delivery to make sure they get it.

If you make the complaint verbally, it’s a good idea to make notes beforehand of what you want to say as it’s easy to get distracted if you’re upset.

If you’re complaining on behalf of someone else, you will usually need their consent, so get them to also sign the letter if they can, or enclose an authorisation for you to act on their behalf.

If you’re complaining on behalf of a patient who has died, you’ll need to provide evidence that you’re the next of kin or that you have got the permission of the next of kin to make the complaint.

For more information please see our full NHS Self Advocacy pack.