Skip to the content
Choose your content
UK NI Scotland Wales

Join us Login Forum Media centre
Choose your content
UK NI Scotland Wales

This information is relevant to people living in Wales

We also have Page title information for:

Making a complaint

If you or the person you care for receive services from public bodies (ie health or local authority) or a care home, you may find occasionally things go wrong. You may be unhappy with aspects of the service you have received. If this happens, you may want to raise a concern or make a complaint. Many people find it difficult to make a complaint and do not know where to start.

What can I do if I'm unhappy about a care service? 

There can be many reasons for wanting to make a complaint, but some include:
• delays or cancellations to services
• poor quality or price of services
• poor behaviour from health or social care staff
• changes or reductions to the care given to the person(s) you look after.
 

Difference between a complaint and a concern

Generally speaking, a concern is a way of raising an issue in an informal way. A complaint is a formal request for an issue to be investigated and reported back to you using the statutory complaints process.

Overall, there tends to be two stages to the complaints process – informal or first stage and formal or second stage. While they may be referred to as ‘complaints’ or ‘concerns’ you would normally begin with the first or informal stage, and if you were not satisfied with the outcome, move to the second or formal stage. However, you can ask for your complaint to go straight to the second stage.

How to raise a concern – NHS Wales

At NHS Wales the word ‘concern’ is used to mean any reported complaint or patient safety incident. You should raise your concern as soon as possible. Concerns should normally be raised within 12 months of the date of the event that you’re complaining about, or as soon as you found out about the problem.

 

Raising your concern with the service provider (for example your GP, hospital or other NHS service) or your local health board.


• You can do so in person, in writing or by email.
• Your concern must be acknowledged within two working days.
• The organisation must investigate and let you know what they have found and what they are going to do about it, in most cases within 30 working days. If they can’t reply to you in that time, they should give you reasons why and let you know when you can expect a reply.

If you need to raise a concern about an NHS or social care service you can talk to Llais who have a trained, dedicated complaints advocacy team who can provide you with free, independent and confidential support.

Llais is an independent national body, which will represent people across Wales in planning and delivering health and social care services. Llais replaces the community health councils (CHCs) in their role of representing the voice of patients within healthcare.

They will help you raise your concern and:

  • Support you to make a complaint about a service, care or treatment provided or paid for by the NHS or local authority
  • Support you to make a complaint on someone else’s behalf, including if someone has died
  • Listen to your concerns
  • Put you in touch with other organisations if they think that someone else can also help
  • Answer questions about the process and explain your options
  • Provide a step-by-step guide to the process and offer some tips

Get in touch with your local Llais team

If you need additional support at any stage, you may be able contact a Patient Advisory Liaison Service (PALS) if your health board has one, please see the section ‘Support to make a complaint’.

Public Service Ombudsman for Wales


If you are still not happy you can take the matter to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. Please see the section ‘What to do if you are not satisfied’ for more information.

Local authority

If you want to raise a general complaint about an aspect of service you have received or are entitled to receive from your local authority, you should contact them to see their individual complaints process. You
can find out who your Local Authority is and their website by clicking this link.

The complaints process has two-stages

(Also referred to as informal resolution) is the quickest and often the most effective way of dealing with a complaint. Unless a complaint is of a very serious nature, all complaints are expected to be dealt with initially at Stage 1.

Enables you to escalate the matter if you remain dissatisfied with the outcome at Stage 1. Stage 2 complaints will be dealt with by a senior officer within the local authority and may be independent to the service your complaint relates to.

The local authority reserves the right to escalate serious matters straight to Stage 2, should it feel this is necessary based on the nature and seriousness of the complaint raised.

Four tips for seeking legal aid:
  1. If you or the person you provide care for is eligible for legal aid, you can instruct a solicitor or caseworker to act on your behalf, to help resolve the issue(s).

  2. To search for legal aid providers, you can use this link here: https://find-legal-advice.justice.gov.uk. This area of law is called ‘community care’. You will need to type in your postcode and choose ‘community care’ as the category of law.

  3. If the person receiving care is a child, it is the parent(s) finances which are taken into account to assess legal aid eligibility.

  4. If you are married and the legal issue is about yourself or your partner, both your finances are taken into account, to assess legal aid eligibility.

Social services

If you want to raise a concern about social services, you should raise it with your local authority in the first instance. There are rules around the procedures for dealing with social services complaints that local authorities must adhere to – you can find the complaints process online by searching for your local authority’s website, or you can ask them for a copy. To find your local authority please click this link.

You may want to complain about a service the local authority has provided OR an independent service they have commissioned - to provide care for example. You may wish to complain about issues such as bad practice or management.

The complaints process has two-stages

This stage would involve you contacting either the Complaints Officer for the local authority or someone involved in providing the service. Local resolution aims to resolve the complaint quickly. You don’t have to put your complaint in writing.


Once you have raised your complaint you should be offered a discussion about the issues you have raised, either face to face or via telephone within 10 working days of the receipt of your complaint. If the local authority is unable to meet this deadline, they should contact you to request an extension to it.


If they do not contact you, make sure that you contact them and make a note of who you spoke to and when if done by telephone. After the discussion and any further investigations, the local authority should write to you within five working days when your complaint has been resolved.

You may ask for your complaint to be investigated by someone who is totally independent of the local authority. This is known as Stage 2 or formal investigation. The Welsh Government guidelines on handling complaints relating to social services, states that if there is a formal investigation, the local authority must appoint an Independent Investigator.


The Independent Investigator, as defined in the regulations, is: ‘a person who is neither a member nor officer of the local authority to which complaints have been made, or the spouse or civil partner of such a person but does include a person with whom the local authority has entered into a contract for services in order to conduct an investigation.’


The local authority must compile a formal written record of the discussion, which will be sent to you within 5 working days to enable you to comment on its accuracy. You will also be provided with details of how your complaint will be investigated, the name of the Investigating Officer and if appropriate, the Independent Person. An Independent Person must be appointed if a complaint is to be considered under the Children Act 1989 and is subject to the formal investigation stage.


The Independent Person is: ‘a separate role to that of the Independent Investigator. Both of these roles are required when representations reach the Formal Investigation stage but they cannot be carried out by the same person. The Independent Person provides separate oversight of how the local authority handles the representation and responds to it. They must take part in the investigation of the representation and any discussion held by the local authority about action to be taken in light of the investigation. The person appointed must be independent of the service that is subject to the representation.’ 


The Formal Investigation stage must be completed, and a full written response issued to you within 25 working days of the start date. If, due to exceptional circumstances, this timescale cannot be met, the local authority should write to you to advise you of the delay and to advise you when the response will be provided. If they do not contact you, make sure that you contact them and make a note of who you spoke to and when.

Your complaint should be responded to in the medium you made it – so for example, if you complained in the Welsh language, your response should be in the Welsh language.

After investigation

If your complaint is upheld, the local authority will look at what they must do to put things right. There are other ways to raise an issue, though some have a cost associated.

These might include:
• making a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales
• taking up the issue with a local councillor, your local Member of the Senedd (MS) or a Member of Parliament (MP)
• asking the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, or the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales to help
• applying for a judicial review, or take other legal action
• taking action against discrimination
• suing the local council for personal injury
• making a claim under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Your local authority can give you the contact details for councillors in your area. You can also contact Citizens Advice for more information. Click here to find out more information.

Other complaint procedures related to care

(privately or commissioned by the local authority)


You can make a complaint directly to The Care Inspectorate Wales – if the complaint is regarding the direct provision of care and/or support provided by a registered care service. If your complaint is about advice, assessment, contracting, or commissioning arrangements provided by the local authority you must contact your local authority and raise the complaint directly with them

If you want to raise a concern about a
social care worker, you may be able to
contact Social Care Wales – the
regulating body for social care
workers in Wales. They can
investigate any shortcomings in
professional performance including
but not limited to for example:


• dishonesty or abuse of someone’s
trust
• failure to meet expected standards
• committing fraud.


If you are not sure if the person you
want to make a complaint about is
working to the Code of Professional Practice you can read it by clicking
this link.

Social Care Wales can only investigate
social care workers who are registered
with them, they cannot investigate
organisations. For more information
about the complaints process that
Social Care Wales follows, please click
this link.


Certain issues, including those
outlined above, may also merit police
involvement if you think that a
criminal offence may have been
committed. You can call 101 for
further advice.

Nursing and care homes are required
by law to have a complaints procedure. If you are unhappy with any aspect of care, then you should ask to see the complaints policy and complain to the management.


If you want to make a complaint about a nursing or care home where the place is funded by or contracted by your local health board, you should contact the local health board or local authority to make your complaint.


If you are not happy with the outcome of the complaint you can complain to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

Please see the section ‘What to do if you are not satisfied with the complaint outcome’ below for more
information.

If you want to make a complaint
about a private or independent
care home, you can ask to see their
complaints procedure and raise it
with the care home first.

If you are not satisfied, you can escalate your complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

For more information please click this link.

Emotions about making a complaint

You might feel nervous, angry, frustrated, afraid of the consequences of making a complaint, worried about doing it or overwhelmed. It can take time and patience as well as organisation and persistence. You might be worried that the person you care for doesn’t want to make a complaint. You may also feel worried about ‘rocking the boat’.

It can be difficult to speak up to people in positions of authority for example medical professionals or social workers – particularly if they have been involved in caring for someone you are also looking after or responsible for sourcing services for them.

Find out more about the emotions in the guide

 

Support to make a complaint

If you need to raise a concern about an NHS or social care service you can talk to Llais who have a trained, dedicated complaints advocacy team who can provide you with free, independent and confidential support. 

Llais is an independent national body, which represents people across Wales in planning and delivering health and social care services. Llais replaces the community health councils (CHCs) in their role of representing the voice of patients within healthcare. 

They will help you raise your concern and: 

  • Support you to make a complaint about a service, care or treatment provided or paid for by the NHS or local authority 
  • Support you to make a complaint on someone else’s behalf, including if someone has died 
  • Listen to your concerns 
  • Put you in touch with other organisations if they think that someone else can also help 
  • Answer questions about the process and explain your options 
  • Provide a step-by-step guide to the process and offer some tips 

Get in touch with your local Llais team  

You may feel that you need a bit of help to find information, for example asking for a copy of any relevant medical records.

Concerns are sometimes about things that are very distressing and the process of raising a concern can seem very daunting. Sometimes people find it helps to talk through their concerns and how the process works with someone who is knowledgeable, empathetic and independent.

A concern is more likely to be resolved quickly and successfully if it is expressed clearly. Llais can help you work out what you want to say and help you draft letters. 

Sometimes it is necessary to meet with NHS staff as part of the concerns process. This can feel daunting and sometimes upsetting. Llais can support you to prepare for and attend meetings with NHS staff so that you can make the most of the opportunity to discuss your concerns. 

They will provide the type and level of support that you need, based on discussions with you. For example, you may feel that, because of a disability, ill health, communication or language barriers, grief or other reasons, you need more support from a ‘complaints advocate’ throughout the process.  

Alternatively, once you have talked your concerns through with an advocate you may feel happy to continue without support. 

Llais works with anyone who lives in Wales and is over 18 years old, no matter what their needs, including but not exclusively, people who have: 

  • mental health issues
    • learning difficulties
    • sensory disabilities 
    • little or no English and different cultural backgrounds 
    • suffered a bereavement 
    • or anyone else who needs help with their complaint 

• secure case management and reporting systems
• letter templates
• interpreting facilities
• communications kits and other resources.

What to do if you’re not satisfied with the complaints process

Social services – registered service or local authority social service


If following resolution of your complaint with a registered service or Local Authority social service you remain unhappy about the outcome, you should contact the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales who has legal powers to look into complaints about public services and care providers in Wales. Visit the Ombudsman’s website for further details.

You can also tell The Care Inspectorate Wales if you remain unhappy about the outcome of a complaint raised with the registered service or Local Authority social service. They will review your concern and consider what appropriate actions they may take in response.

Get in touch with your local Llais team  

How do I get legal advice? 

Getting legal advice should be a last resort if all other options fail and you feel it is in everybody’s interests to pursue the matter further.  

You may be able to get free legal advice under the Legal Aid scheme. However the rules around who is eligible are complex, so it is worth speaking to a legal adviser who specialises in the area or contact Civil Legal Advice - if you live in England or Wales (0345 345 4345, gov.uk/civil-legal-advice).  

In England and Wales, you can search for a specialist adviser at find-legal-advice.justice.gov.uk. Put in your postcode and select ‘community care’ as the category of law. You can also find out more about the eligibility required for free assistance here: gov.uk/legal-aid/eligibility. 

The Disability Law Service (020 7791 9800, dls.org.uk) may initially provide free guidance if you do not qualify for legal aid. 

In Scotland, you can see if you are eligible for legal support here: 

https://www.mygov.scot/legal-aid. Alternatives to legal aid where you can get useful advice are listed here: https://www.mygov.scot/legal-aid/alternatives-to-legal-aid. 

In Northern Ireland, guidance on the system of obtaining legal aid can be found here: https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/topics/legal-aid. Age NI also offers some useful sources of support on accessing free legal advice: ageuk.org.uk/northern-ireland/information-advice/money-matters/legal-issues/legal-advice/. 

Download the complete complaints guide here

We also have our complaints guide in an Easy Read format.

Latest updates

News
Helen Walker reflects on Carers Week
14 June 24

Carers Week reflections from our Chief Executive, Helen Walker

Press Release
Charity Director Emily Holzhausen awarded CBE in the King’s Birthday Honours list
14 June 24

Carers UK are incredibly proud to announce, and would like to congratulate Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy and Public Affairs,…

News
Dummy image
Life and Caring in North East Scotland - Carers Week 2024
12 June 24

Carers Week 2024: Putting Carers on the Map. Alison shares her experiences on caring for her dad while living in…

Press Release
Dummy image
Communities budget ‘extremely disappointing’ for unpaid carers, charity says
11 June 24

Carers NI response to the Department for Communities' draft 2024-25 budget.

Got a question about caring?

Every day we hear from people who need help with looking after a friend or family member

Become a member for free

Joining Carers UK is free and takes just a few minutes.

Back to top