Some of the things you need to know about which organisations we can and can't look into and when to complain

Organisations we can investigate

We can investigate complaints about the NHS in England and UK government departments and some other public organisations.

List of UK government organisations we can investigate.

Organisations we can't investigate

There are some organisations that we can't look at, usually because somebody else is in charge of investigating complaints about them. This includes Members of Parliament, and political parties, local councils, social care and housing. We also can't investigate complaints about private healthcare - unless it was funded by the NHS.

When you bring a complaint to us, we will always do our best to help, but if we can't look at your complaint then we will point you in the direction of an organisation that can.

More about organisations we can't help with and who may be able to help.

Time limits

If you are complaining to us about a UK government department or public organisation, you should send your MP your completed complaint form within one year of knowing that something went wrong. If you are complaining to us about the NHS in England, then you should do so within a year of knowing about the problem.

In some cases, we will be able to investigate a complaint even if you make it more than a year after you knew something went wrong. For example:

  • if you were too ill to complain to us within a year
  • if you were bereaved or
  • if it took the organisation that caused the problem a long time to consider your complaint.

If you are not sure about this, ring us on 0345 015 4033, Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm.

Legal action

Generally, we cannot investigate a complaint if it is or was reasonable for you to take legal action to get an answer to it. This could include going to court or to a tribunal. We will look at whether legal action would be able to fully answer your complaint or give you what you want.

Whether it is reasonable to expect you to take or have taken legal action also depends on the nature of your complaint and what you want to achieve. For example, if you want a financial remedy, it would be best to look into legal action. However, if we can see that there are parts of the complaint that wouldn’t be resolved through legal action, we could look into them. For example, we could consider investigating aspects of a complaint where you would like an apology, an explanation of what went wrong or an action plan for improvement.


Which organisations can we investigate?

There are a number of Government departments and other public bodies which the Ombudsman can investigate.

Read more

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