What we can and can't do
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 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.
We usually ask that people bring their complaints to us no more than a year after they became aware of the problem.
By law, complaints about a UK government department or public organisation must be sent to us by an MP; we can’t look at them until this has happened. We ask that the MP makes the complaint within one year of knowing that something went wrong with the service the complainant received.
In some cases, we will be able to investigate a complaint more than year after knowing something went wrong, for example, if you were too ill to complain to us within a year or if you were bereaved. If you are not sure about this, ring us on 0345 015 4033, Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm.
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.