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Care Opinion and formal complaints about health or care


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Care Opinion is a platform for public feedback about health and social care. It is not a formal complaint process, nor part of a complaint process.

We do publish feedback about the experience of making complaints in health and social care. Here are some things you might want to think about when deciding whether to post feedback here, before, during or after a complaint process.

If you are planning to make a complaint, or have an ongoing complaint, about your care

If you are planning to make a complaint, or have already made a complaint, to a health or care service, you can still share a story about that experience (about the care, or about the complaint process itself) on Care Opinion.

  • When you post on Care Opinion, you are likely to be identifiable to the staff who are looking into your complaint.
  • You should think carefully about whether a public story on Care Opinion might affect how complaint handlers and other staff feel about your complaint, or how they respond to it.

To avoid having two different communications in progress with the same organisation at the same time (a formal complaint and informal online feedback), it might be wise to wait until your complaint process is completed. Then you can decide whether you want to share feedback about your care, or the complaint process, on Care Opinion.

If you want to go ahead, let our moderator know. Your story will then be moderated in line with our standard process.

If a complaint about your care is completed

If your complaint process is completed, sharing your experience on Care Opinion will normally not cause you a problem.

Posting on Care Opinion is not a way to reopen your complaint, or reach a different complaint outcome.

If you have been unhappy with the complaint process, you may be planning to escalate your case to a health service ombudsman. If so, you should check whether posting on Care Opinion (or receiving a response from the care provider on Care Opinion) could cause a delay to the ombudsman accepting your case.

If you want to go ahead, let our moderator know. Your story will then be moderated in line with our standard process.

There is a health service ombudsman in each country of the UK:




Northern Ireland:

How is posting on Care Opinion different to making a formal complaint?

The table below summarises some of the differences between Care Opinion and making a formal complaint.

Care OpinionFormal complaint
Informal and online Formal and usually on paper
Outside the organisation Inside the organisation
You remain anonymous You do not remain anonymous
Public: everyone can read it Private: only you and the organisation can see it
You may not get any response You should always get a response
Multiple organisations may respond A single organisation responds
Story/response statistics are not monitored Complaint statistics are monitored nationally
No power to force specific outcomes May result in a clear action plan
Focus on learning and improvement Focus on fault and accountability

How does Care Opinion moderate a story about a formal complaint?

Care Opinion moderates stories about the experience of complaint just like other stories, in line with our moderation policy and values.

Where it is clear that a formal complaint is planned or is ongoing, we pause moderation and ask the author to consider the issues on this page. If the author confirms they wish to go ahead, we resume moderation of the story.

Why does Care Opinion have this policy?

Care Opinion’s mission is for “people to be able to share their experiences of health and care in ways which are safe, simple, and lead to learning and change”. Experiences of health and care may include a wide range of experiences, such as clinical, administrative or relational experiences, and may also include the experience of a formal complaint process.

In principle, we believe that Care Opinion should publish both experiences of care which lead to complaints, and experiences of the complaints process itself. We believe wider public benefits follow from this policy.

For story authors: research from the NIHR Inquire UK study (Oxford University) suggests that important motivations for authors posting care experiences online include “informing other patients” and “improving standards of care”. There is much evidence of authors achieving these goals when they post their feedback, but they can’t achieve them in relation to the complaints process if Care Opinion rejects feedback about that process.

For health/care providers and the wider system: It is acknowledged that there is much variation in the quality of provider complaint handling (see for example cross-UK work on the Complaint Standards Framework). Formal channels for feedback about complaints processes exist, and Care Opinion adds an informal channel alongside these, just as it does for care more generally.