Dealing with complaints made against you personally

This page offers guidance and support to doctors who have had a complaint made against them by a patient.

Location: UK
Audience: All doctors
Updated: Thursday 2 May 2024
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Throughout the course of your career, you may encounter a time when a complaint is made against you or the services you provide.

We have collated some helpful advice and support below for your reference. We have also produced specific guidance for primary care services

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales operate separate complaint procedures:


Legal advice

If you are subject to investigation or action by the GMC or other body you should contact your medical defence organisation straight away. They can offer you advice and legal support if appropriate.

If you are not a member of a defence organisation, you can contact our BMA employment advisers who can provide expert employment advice and support on matters related to personal conduct.

Our advice is that under GMC Good Medical Practice, you must make sure you have adequate insurance and medical indemnity cover.

Alternatively, you can get your own legal advice, at your own expense. Legal aid is not available to doctors being investigated under GMC procedures and you cannot claim costs from the other parties involved.

Your NHS employer should offer you access to occupational health services and should ensure that proper confidentiality procedures are put in place to limit any damage from malicious complaints.

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Your wellbeing

We have a range of services to support you.

  • Counselling
  • Peer support
  • UK wellbeing support directory

Call our free and confidential helpline on 0330 123 1245

View our services

Medical indemnity

The NHS Litigation Authority provides indemnity to employees in respect of clinical negligence claims. There are equivalent organisations in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

This indemnity provides support for clinical negligence claims which arise from contracted NHS duties, but not for disciplinary issues, or referrals to the General Medical Council.

There will also be situations where NHS indemnity does not apply. We strongly recommend that you take out supplementary insurance with one of the medical defence bodies or provide yourself with other personal indemnity insurance.


Complaints and disciplinary action






Patient rights

If a patient is unhappy with the medical care they have received they have the right to complain

As outlined by the NHS constitution in England patients also have the right to:

  • have any complaint made about NHS services dealt with efficiently and to have it properly investigated
  • know the outcome of any investigation into their complaint
  • take a complaint to the independent Health Service Ombudsman if they are not satisfied with the way it has been dealt with by the NHS
  • make a claim for judicial review if they think they have been directly affected by an unlawful act or decision of an NHS body
  • compensation where they have been harmed by negligent treatment.

The constitution also states that the NHS will commit to:

  • providing support to relevant parties throughout any complaint process
  • treating those who make a complaint with respect
  • ensuring that anyone who has complained will not have their future treatment adversely effected
  • acknowledge mistakes, apologise, explain what went wrong and put things right quickly and effectively
  • ​ensure that the organisation learns lessons from complaints and claims and uses these to improve NHS services.