Making a formal complaint

This page tells you the process for making a formal complaint about the services you have recieved at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

Complaints procedure

Your comments, compliments, concerns and complaints will help us improve the services we provide to our patients.

Investigating and responding to your complaints

If you consider that your concerns have not been addressed adequately by staff in the Trust or via the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team, or you would like to proceed with a formal complaint immediately, this is the process:

Stage one – local resolution

  • You can make a complaint about your NHS care at CUH directly to us or to your local Clinical Commissioning Group.
  • If your complaint is about another organisation as well as CUH, you can include this and with your permission we will contact the other organisation(s) for their response.
  • You can make a complaint verbally or in writing:
  • If you make your complaint verbally (in person or over the telephone) we will make a written record and send you a copy which you can amend if necessary.
  • You can make a written complaint in a letter or by email or fax, or by completing this form. Please let us know if you are happy for us to communicate with you by email.
  • It is helpful if you provide as much information as you can, including dates of treatment. We would like to know your expectations and your desired outcome from making a complaint.
  • Try to make your complaint as soon as you can.  Complaints should be made within 12 months of the events you are unhappy about. If the events are longer ago than this, we will consider your reasons for not complaining sooner and still investigate and respond if we can. We understand that it sometimes takes time to think about making a complaint.
  • We may need to look at your medical records in order to answer your complaint.  Please let us know straightaway if you have any questions or concerns about this.
  • We will send you a written acknowledgment of your complaint within three working days of receipt.
  • The investigation of your complaint will be co-ordinated by a member of our complaints team and the contact details for this person will be in the acknowledgment letter.
  • The acknowledgement letter will offer you a discussion with a member of the complaints team about how your complaint will be handled, how long the investigation is likely to take and when we are likely to be able to send you our response. If you do not wish to have a discussion, we aim to respond to complaints within 30 working days. If your complaint is complex it may take longer and we will write to you to let you know when we will be able to respond to you.
  • We always aim to keep complainants regularly updated on the progress of the investigation. Please let us know whether you would like us to update you via phone, email or letter.
  • In the unlikely event that it takes longer than six months to respond to your complaint in writing, we will write to you to explain the reasons why.
  • We usually respond to complaints in writing and send the response letter to you through the post.  If you would like us to communicate with you via email, please let us know that you are happy for us to do this.
  • The response to your complaint will be made up of a letter signed by the Chief Executive and another letter which forms an investigation report. All investigation reports are reviewed by a member of CUH’s executive team: the Chief Nurse, the Medical Director (or deputy) or the Chief Operating Officer.
  • If you are dissatisfied with the response, the complaints case manager handling your case will be pleased to discuss how we can resolve any outstanding issues. We can send you a further written response or arrange a meeting.
  • If a meeting would be the best way forward, we can arrange for you to discuss your complaint with senior medical or nursing staff. It is usually best for a meeting to take place after you have received a written response to your complaint. You can bring someone with you to support you at a meeting.
  • If we consider that we can do nothing further to resolve your complaint locally, we will inform you of this in writing.  You then have the option to request that the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) undertakes an independent review of your complaint and how we handled it.
  • If your complaint is made verbally and we can resolve it to your satisfaction no later than the next working day after it is made, we will not register the issue as a formal complaint.
  • The complaints process at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH) is based on the national NHS complaints regulations (2009). Please let us know if you would like a copy of the regulations.


Please be reassured that raising a complaint will not have a negative impact on the care and treatment you receive here.


Stage two – Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO)

The PHSO provides a service to the public by undertaking independent investigations into complaints which have not been resolved at a local level. This is the second stage in the complaints procedure.

In most cases the PHSO will not investigate a complaint unless it has already been made to the hospital and all other options of resolution have been explored.  We will tell you if we consider that we can take no further action to resolve your complaint and provide information about the PHSO.


Support for complainants

If you require support or advocacy from a source outside the hospital, you can contact an organisation which provide NHS complaints advocacy.  For most people attending CUH, the organisation providing this service is ‘Total Voice’.  Total Voice will be able to direct you to other advocacy organisations if you are outside the area they cover.

Advocacy services are free and independent of the NHS and can support you to make an NHS complaint yourself, or an advocate can help you write letters and will attend meetings at the hospital. More information is on their website.

You can also contact Healthwatch Cambridgeshire. Healthwatch is an independent organisation which ensures that people have a say in important decisions about their health and social care services in their area. They can also signpost you to the relevant NHS complaints advocacy service. If you live outside Cambridgeshire you can find your local Healthwatch by visiting the website