Complaints procedure

How to make a complaint about Public Health England (PHE).

Public Health England (PHE) aims to provide high-quality services to all of its service users and welcomes comments to help us achieve this. However, there may be occasions when we fail to meet expectations and you feel that a complaint is justified.

Complaints procedure

The PHE Complaints Procedure covers both clinical and non-clinical complaints.

Anyone who is receiving - or has received - PHE services as a patient or member of the public can complain. If the patient or member of the public is unable to complain in person, then someone else, usually a relative or close friend can complain for them.

It is important that complaints are lodged as soon as possible after the event. Usually, PHE will only investigate complaints that are:

  • made within 6 months of the event
  • made within 6 months of the person realising they have a reason for complaint - as long as that is not more than 12 months after the event itself
  • related to commercial activities of PHE - carried out under contract, where a separate contract applies

These time limits can be waived if there are good reasons why a patient could not complain sooner.

There are some things that cannot be dealt with under PHE’s complaints procedures. These include:

  • events requiring investigation by a professional disciplinary body
  • events where legal action is already being taken

If it is unclear whether the complaint is definitely against PHE, the PHE Complaints Manager should be consulted.

Local resolution

It is important that the complainant should be directed to a senior member of staff close to the cause of the complaint. The Regional or Executive Director must be informed of the complaint and agree the proposed process of local resolution.

In many cases, it should be possible to sort out the problem straight away. The best way of doing this is to talk to the complainant, clarify the issues and seek to resolve the problem as soon as possible. If there is a preference to talk to someone who is not involved in the case, the Complaints Manager can be contacted.

It may be the case that whoever the complaint is lodged with will need to involve other members of staff to establish what has happened and to decide what action to take. Under these circumstances, information about the patient will be kept confidential. The complainant will be informed of the outcome of local resolution by the Regional or Executive Director in writing.

Independent review

If the outcome through local resolution is not satisfactory, the complainant may ask for the complaint to be taken to independent review. This request to the Complaints Manager must be made within 4 weeks of receiving information about the outcome through local resolution.

The request for independent review will then be submitted for consideration by the convenor (whose sole responsibility is to ensure that the process is followed correctly and that people’s rights and confidentiality issues are attended to). The request should include a written statement explaining fully why there is still dissatisfaction.

The convenor, in conjunction with an independent layperson, will in the first instance consider whether further local resolution is appropriate. If it is decided that no further avenues to resolution exist at the local level, an independent review of the complaint may be made by a special review panel.

A panel investigation will be set up if the convenor considers this is likely to resolve the problems that have been identified in the complaint. A panel does not have to be set up each time one is requested. The complainant will, in general, be informed of the decision of the convenor within 4 weeks of a complaint being received.

Independent review panel

The panel will consist of three people: an independent lay person acting as chairman, the convenor, and one other person. PHE will provide administrative support as required. The panel will re-examine fully the concerns referred to it by the convenor, talking to everyone involved, and getting any specialist advice it needs.

The panel will then prepare a report setting out the results of its investigation, together with its conclusions and any appropriate comments or suggestions. The complainant will be sent a copy of the report, and the Chief Executive will write to the complainant with details of any action being taken as a result of the panel’s recommendation.

Further steps

If there is still dissatisfaction after the PHE complaints procedure has been completed, the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) can be asked to investigate the case.

The PHSO is completely independent of PHE, NHS England and the government. As well as complaints against PHE services, the Ombudsman can investigate complaints about how the complaints procedure is working and how it has been applied to the case at hand.

The PHSO is not obliged to investigate every complaint received, and will not generally take on a case which has not first been through the PHE complaints procedure, or a case which is being dealt with by the courts.


If you have any comments on our services or suggestions for improvements we could make please write to:

Complaints Manager
Strategy Directorate
Wellington House
133-155 Waterloo Road

Alternatively, you can email

If your complaint relates to COVID-19 contact