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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.

Should I complain to the General Medical Council?

The General Medical Council (GMC) deals with the most serious complaints about doctors. These are complaints that might require a doctor’s registration to be restricted or removed to protect the public and uphold public confidence in the medical profession.

We are one of a number of organisations responsible for considering patients’ concerns and, depending on the circumstances, it may be more appropriate for you to raise your concerns with another one of these organisations first.

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 6602.

There are also a number of organisations throughout the UK who will be able to advise you (all links below will open in a new window)

What kind of things should I complain to you about?

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
  • serious concerns about knowledge of the English language
  • fraud or dishonesty
  • serious breaches of a patient's confidentiality
  • any serious criminal offence

If you think a doctor has committed a criminal offence, you should contact the police as well as the GMC.

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 the public or because the doctor’s conduct is likely to undermine confidence in the profession.

We cannot do any of the following:

If you are seeking any of the above you should normally complain through local complaints procedures:

Do you consider older complaints?

We can't usually investigate concerns about events that took place more than five years ago unless there are exceptional reasons in the public interest for doing so. If your concern is over five years old, we will ask you to explain why you did not raise it with us previously. We need to understand this before we can take any further action.

How do you handle complaints which do not relate to 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.

What information will you need from me?

We will need the following information from you:

  • your details
  • the doctor's details (including, where possible, the doctor's GMC reference number)
  • details of the incident (including the date (or approximate date) that the incident took place)
  • if you complained about this matter to another organisation, details of who you complained to and what the outcome was.

Further details are available on the information that we need.

How do I make a complaint?

Please go to our complaining about a doctor pages.

What action will you take when I have made my complaint?

We will review your complaint (normally within seven days) to assess whether there are issues that we need to investigate and if so, what form the investigation should take.

In some instances, we may decide to carry out a provisional enquiry. A provisional enquiry is a limited, initial enquiry at the outset of the process which helps us to decide whether to open an investigation.

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.

Further information and links

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.

The Samaritans
For 24 hour a day confidential emotional support.

Other regulators

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.

Health and Care Professions Council
Complaints against arts therapists, biomedical scientists, chiropodists/podiatrists, clinical scientists, dietitians, hearing aid dispensers, occupational therapists, operating department practitioners, orthoptists, paramedics, physiotherapists, practitioner psychologists, prosthetists/orthotists, radiographers, social workers in England and speech and language therapists.

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.

Law Society
The GMC cannot recommend solicitors to assist with litigation and compensation claims. Enquirers can contact the Law Society for help with this.