Making a complaint - Frequently Asked Questions
This section answers a number of frequently asked questions (FAQs).
The information does appear elsewhere on this website – but this section is intended to be a quick and useful source of answers to the key questions people want to know about the complaining process.
Complaining about a doctor
Complaining to the GMC
What happens next
Complaining about a doctor
Should I complain to the General Medical Council?
Before you complain to the GMC, you should consider whether we are the most appropriate organisation to look at your complaint. We are one of a number of organisations responsible for dealing with complaints about doctors.
Most complaints about doctors can be settled locally, and quickly, by the doctor's employers. The NHS hospital, GP practice, private hospital or clinic where you received care have their own complaints procedures.
The GMC has developed an interactive guide called Patients’ help, for patients who are considering making a complaint to the GMC.
Please view this page if you have trouble accessing Patients’ help.
Where can I get advice about my complaint?
If you are considering complaining to the GMC, you may find it useful to get advice before you make your complaint. This can help make sure that:
- you complain to the most appropriate organisation
- you explain your concerns clearly and you provide all the information we need to consider your complaint.
You can get advice by telephoning our helpline on 0161 923 6402 or you can e-mail your query to email@example.com.
There are also a number of organisations throughout the UK who will be able to advise you.
Complaining to the GMC
What are the types of complaint the GMC can help with?
Many concerns about doctors can best be considered locally, by the doctor’s employer. However, we can take action in more serious cases, if we need to stop a doctor from practising or to restrict their practice in some way.
These are examples of the types of cases where we may need to act:
- serious or repeated mistakes in carrying out medical procedures or in diagnosis, such as prescribing drugs in a dangerous way
- failure to examine a patient properly or to respond reasonably to a patient's needs
- fraud or dishonesty
- serious breaches of a patient's confidentiality
- any serious criminal offence
If you are not sure if your complaint is one that we should look at, just ask us – see our Fitness to Practise contact details.
What are the types of complaint the GMC cannot help with?
Our Fitness to Practise procedures focus on the most serious concerns, which call into question a doctor’s fitness to practise and right to retain unrestricted registration – that is his or her right to work.
This might be because the doctor poses a risk to patients or because the doctor’s conduct is likely to undermine confidence in the profession.
We cannot do any of the following:
- Arrange for an apology from the doctor or healthcare provider
- Provide an explanation of what happened
- Order a doctor to provide the treatment you want
- Help you with a claim for compensation
If you are seeking any of the above you should normally complain through local complaints procedures:
What is the process for older complaints?
We can normally only consider complaints about events that took place within the last five years. We will only look at older complaints if there are exceptional reasons in the public interest for doing so.
How do you handle complaints which are not about individual doctors?
We can only consider complaints about individual doctors. We cannot consider complaints about other professions, such as nurses or dentists. Nor can we consider general complaints about the standard of care provided by a hospital or other healthcare provider.
How do I complain to the General Medical Council?
If you have any questions please ring the helpline number on 0161 923 6402.
You can report a doctor to the GMC by:
We will need the following information from you
- the doctor's name and work address
- an explanation of your concerns - with dates
- copies of any supporting documents such as relevant medical records
- the names and addresses of anyone else who can support the facts around your concerns
You can get advice on how to complete the form and the information we will need by ringing our helpline.
NHS Complaints procedures
Mental Health Act Commission
The MHC considers complaints about the implementation of the Mental Health Act 1983 as it relates to patients who are detained or are liable to be detained.
Information Commissioners Office
Responsible for administering the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The ICO can assist patients in accessing official information held by hospitals, the police etc. or deal with complaints where members of the public believe their personal information has been handled incorrectly.
For 24 hour a day confidential emotional support.
Nursing and Midwifery Council
The NMC processes allegations of impairment of fitness to practise made against nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses on grounds including misconduct, lack of competence and ill health.
The General Social Care Council
Complaints against social workers in England. Social workers who breach the Code of Practice for Social Care Workers could be removed from the register through this process.
The General Dental Council
Complaints about registered dental professionals; dentists, dental hygienists, dental therapists, clinical dental technicians and orthodontic therapists.
General Pharmaceutical Council
Complaints about Pharmacists registered with the Council when they fail to comply with the required standards of conduct.
The GMC cannot recommend solicitors to assist with litigation and compensation claims. Enquirers can contact the Law Society for help with this.
What happens next?
What action will the GMC take when I have made my complaint?
We will review your complaint (normally within 7 days) to assess whether there are issues that we need to investigate and if so, what form the investigation should take.
In some cases, it will be clear from the start that it is not appropriate for us to investigate (for example, because it is not about a doctor or because the case clearly falls outside our criteria for taking action against a doctor).
We will write to you as quickly as we can to explain what action we are taking.
For further information, see our Investigating concerns section.