Our privacy policy: what happens to the information you give us

This privacy policy explains how we use any personal information we collect about you when you contact us.

What information do we collect about you?

When you first contact us we will record your name, address and details of your complaint in a file that we hold:

  • on a computer
  • on paper
  • or both.

How will we use the information about you?

  • When you send us your complaint, we will ask you to give us your consent to deal with it. This means we can then go ahead and look at the information you give us.

Who will we share your information with?

  • By giving your consent, you agree that we can share information about you and your complaint with the organisation you have complained about.
  • If you do not want us to share the information you have given us with others, please tell us straight away. Please be aware, however, that this may limit our ability to investigate your complaint.

Sharing your information to help us decide how to handle your complaint

  • We may share details about you and your complaint with the organisation you have complained about. This is so that we can get more information to help us decide how to handle your complaint. We might also ask for advice about your complaint from someone with specialist knowledge (for example, a health professional).

Sharing your information if we do not investigate your complaint

  • Sometimes we can help to put things right without an investigation. There might be other reasons why we cannot help you further with your complaint. If so, we will send you or your MP (if you have complained through them) a letter explaining our reasons for not investigating your complaint.
  • If your complaint is about the NHS, we may send details of this final letter to the NHS organisation or person you complained about. This is to help them learn from the complaint and to consider if they need to do things differently or better. If we do this, we will let you know. We will not share any of your personal information unless they already know about it.
  • In the case of complaints about government departments or other public organisations, we do not send a copy of that letter to the organisation complained about, but we may let them know what we have decided.

Sharing your information so that we can investigate your complaint

  • If we decide to investigate your complaint, we must tell the organisation and any person complained about. We will therefore need to share your name and the details of your complaint. At the same time, we will usually ask the organisation for more information (including relevant papers and computer records).
  • We can also ask for information from anyone who we think can help us with your investigation. This could be someone with specialist knowledge about a subject (such as a health professional) or someone who can tell us more about what happened and the impact it had on you (such as a relative or an employer).
  • We carry out some joint investigations with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) if a complaint covers both health services and social care services. To do this, we need to share information with the LGO. If we need to work with the LGO we will also ask for your consent before we do this. If you consent to both organisations dealing with your complaint you are also giving your consent to the organisations sharing the information if they need to. For specific details on how we and the LGO carry out a joint investigation please see our joint working agreement.

Sharing draft and final reports on an investigation

  • Towards the end of our investigation, we will send you and the organisation, and any person complained about, a copy of our draft report. This gives you both a chance to comment on our draft findings.
  • Our draft report is confidential. It will contain all the information from you and others that we have contacted. You and the organisation may share the draft report with people who can help you comment on its accuracy and content (for example, a family member or professional adviser), but by law you and the organisation complained about must not make the contents public.1
  • After we receive comments on the draft report, we will send a final report to:
    • you
    • your MP (if you complained through them)
    • the organisation and any person complained about.
  • Once you and the organisation have received the final report, it is up to you both how you use it. You both must, however, be aware of any personal data in the report and handle it with care.
  • In health cases, we will anonymise your final report and send a copy that does not contain your name and address to:
    • regulatory organisations (such as the Care Quality Commission, General Medical Council or Monitor) if we have identified a problem that may affect others
    • any other appropriate organisation that may benefit from what has been learned from our report.
  • Unless we decide to publish the report, we will not normally discuss its contents with anyone other than those involved in the investigation. There is more information about our published reports later on in this policy.

Sharing your information for training and monitoring purposes

  • We want to make sure that we give a good service, so we might use your complaint for training and monitoring purposes. We will only share this with our staff or people acting on our behalf.

How long will we keep your information?

  • We will keep all information about you and your complaint for one year after making our decision. This is whether we investigate your case or not.  At that point, we will delete most of your information except the following, which we keep permanently:
    • the final investigation report
    • any record that we think is important historically, for example the information we publish
    • data such as your name, your address, the name of the organisation you complained about, what you complained about, and the outcome.
  • If you use our online form to make a complaint and submit it to us, we will transfer your information to our records. If you don’t submit your complaint form, we will store the details of your complaint on our online form site for 30 days after you started filling in the form. After this, we delete all complaint information.
  • If you contact us by telephone, please note that we record calls for training and monitoring purposes. We store the recording for 30 days and then delete it. We do not add recordings of telephone calls to case files.

Will you have access to your information, and how can you correct it?

  • You have the right to request a copy of the information that we hold about you, unless there is a legal exemption. For example, we might refuse if we are in the middle of an investigation, or if the information has been given to us in confidence. If you would like a copy of some or all of the personal information we hold about you, you can ask the person who is handling your complaint, or contact our Freedom of Information and Data Protection Team by emailing:
  • We want to make sure that your personal information, such as your name and contact details, are accurate and up to date. If you think we've got your details wrong, please let us know and we will update or delete them.

Marketing and customer satisfaction surveys

  • We do not share your information with any third party marketing companies.
  • We may, however, share your name and telephone number with a company that carries out customer satisfaction research for us. That company will not know the details of your complaint. It will only know:
    • whether or not we investigated your complaint
    • whether we upheld it
    • if you were not happy with the outcome of your complaint and asked us to look at it again.
  • If you would prefer not to take part in the survey, let us know by phoning 0300 061 4222 (24-hour answerphone) or by emailing us at

Why do we publish information about complaints?

  • We believe the insight generated from our investigations can be used to help raise awareness of issues that other organisations can learn from. We share this insight by publishing case summaries, theme based reports, and reports on individual investigations. We present these reports to Parliament and publish them on our website. When we do this, we always remove any information that identifies you including your name and address. If you would prefer us not to use your case in this way, please let us know.

Freedom of information

  • We are a public authority under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the FOI Act). We will not release information we hold about you to other people under this Act. This is because the Data Protection Act 1998 says we cannot release any information we obtain about a complaint unless we need to do so to carry out our work.

Changes to our privacy policy

  • We keep our privacy policy under regular review and we last updated it on 14 October 2016.

How to contact us

Please get in touch if you have any questions about our privacy policy or information we hold about you. Please email:, with Information and Records Management team in the subject line.

Further information

  • If you want to know more about our commitment to keeping your information safe, read our Information Promise.
  • For more information about your rights under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and the Data Protection Act 1998, see the Information Commissioner's website at
  • If you want to make a request for information, please contact:
  • Our publication scheme gives details of all the information we make freely available to the public. It includes our records management policy and casework retention schedule.

The legislation which governs our work protects information obtained for the purposes of an investigation.