Tips for writing a good health complaint

Writing a health complaint can be difficult as it is a very personal and emotional experience. Often the things we wish to raise a concern about have had a big effect on us or someone we know.

But it is important that your complaint is effective, to make sure your voice is heard. For a complaint to be effective, it is important that you explain the issues clearly and factually.


  1. Make sure your reason for complaining is a valid one, and you are someone with a right to complain (especially if you are complaining on someone’s behalf).
  2. If you are complaining on behalf of someone else, you will usually have to include their written permission. If they cannot give permission, for example, because they are too ill, explain this in your letter.
  3. Keep your letter to the point and as short as possible.
  4. Make a clear list of the things you are complaining about. Write them down in date order to create a timeline of events, with as many factual details that you can. For example, if you are complaining about the behaviour of your dentist at an appointment, write down:
    – The date of the appointment
    – The place where the appointment was
    – The name of the dentist
    – If known, the names or roles of anyone else who witnessed the unacceptable behaviour e.g. patients, receptionist etc.
  5. Write the complaint in an unemotional way. Stick to complaining about the aspects of the complaint or behaviours that are unacceptable e.g. inappropriate or unprofessional language, misdiagnosis or poor advice etc.
  6. Keep and make copies of any documents you write and get for your own records. You can attach copies of relevant documents to your letter.
  7. State the outcome you want to get out of the complaint. This could just be an apology, or you may wish for services to communicate better and to look at their own policies and procedures.


Headings to help form your complaint:

  1. Complaint details: an overall description of the issue I am complaining about
    Try to be specific about what the issue is using the tips above. It is better to be factual and clear. Where possible include dates and names of any people involved, or anyone who may have been aware of what happened.
  2. How this has affected me
    This can help to make clear how the incident has affected you e.g. feeling embarrassed or humiliated, having no confidence in the service in the future etc.
  3. What I would like to happen next
    If you would like something to happen as a result of this complaint, write that here. For example, you might want a written apology, or an assurance that steps are being taken to avoid this happening again to you or to someone else.
  4. Description of attachments
    If you have attached any documents, including consent forms, relating to your complaint, you can say so here.


Example of a good Health Complaint