How we can help Members of Parliament deal with complaints

Have you received a complaint about benefits, immigration or tax credits? Or has someone been to your constituency surgery to complain about their experience of the NHS in England? Are you unsure how to advise your constituent?

As Parliament's Ombudsman we may be able to help you where you cannot resolve a complaint yourself or where a constituent has asked you to refer a complaint to us. We can also assist you in holding public services to account.

Helping your constituents use our service

We look into complaints where someone believes there has been injustice or hardship because an organisation has not acted properly or fairly or has given a poor service and not put things right.

Our powers are set out in law and our service is free for everyone but, by law, complaints about Government departments and other public organisations must be referred to us by an MP. This is known as the 'MP filter'. Complaints about the NHS can come to us directly or through an MP.

There are three key checks which will help you give your constituents initial guidance:

Has your constituent completed the complaints process of the organisation in question?

People can ask us to look into their complaint if they are unhappy with the organisation's final response. Occasionally we get involved before that stage if an organisation is clearly not making progress with the complaint within a reasonable timescale.

Is the case being brought to us in time?

Generally we only consider cases which someone has brought to you within a year of their first becoming aware that they wanted to complain. There are some exceptions to this, such as a delay following a bereavement.

Is the case in our jurisdiction?

We can only consider cases where we have been given the ability to do so by Parliament. This includes cases about UK government departments and other UK public organisations and the NHS in England. We can only look at cases about UK government departments if an MP refers them to us. People can complain to us directly about the NHS in England.

Here is: information on how to complain, a list of organisations we can investigate and information on what to do if we can't help.

How you can contact us

If you would like to discuss a particular case or would like more information about our work, please contact us.

You can call us on our dedicated MP helpline 0300 061 4953 or email us at

You can also fax us on 0300 061 4000.

You can download our information leaflet for MPs and their staff here. Please, get in touch if you need hard copies of the leaflet.

Why we exist: our role

We were set up by Parliament nearly 50 years ago to help both individuals and the general public. Dame Julie Mellor is the current Ombudsman. We are the final stage for complaints about the NHS in England and public services delivered by the UK Government. More about our role. 

We were set up by Parliament to provide an independent complaint handling service. We share findings from our casework with Parliament to help them scrutinise public service providers and share these findings more widely with others to help drive improvements in public services.

We are accountable to Parliament and our work is scrutinised by the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

You can find more information about our legislative framework and governance.

More information about our work

You can find copies of our reports here. We also publish summaries of some of our cases.

‘Your contents held are fair, and impartial, and have demonstrated to me that you have taken the time to listen, and have clearly investigate the specific issues that I reported.’

Someone with several complaints about an NHS Foundation Trust


How we can help MPs

09 Jul 2015

This leaflet describes how we can help MPs deal with complaints from constituents about the NHS in England, UK government departments and other UK public organisations.

Download PDF File

Houses of Parliament at night

Case summaries

These short, anonymised stories show the profound impact that failures in public services can have on the lives of individuals and their families.

Read more