How to Write a Letter of Complaint to a Medical Professional

Updated on May 24, 2019
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Kate has over eight years experience as an Employment and Personal Injury legal executive. She runs LawCat, a legal explanations website.

Working in medical negligence, a lot of people ask me what they should do if they are unhappy with the treatment that they, or a loved one, has received, but are unsure if said treatment is negligent in the legal sense.

Many patients understand that there is a risk to any kind of treatment and that sometimes, when you undergo medical treatment, you will not get the outcome you desire. Through no fault of any of the medical staff treating you, the treatment won’t be successful, or you will not achieve the level of success that you would like. However, in some situations, a poor outcome is achieved due to the treatment you received falling below the standard expected of a reasonably competent medical professional.

The line between these two situations can sometimes be very difficult to spot. In this situation, many people find approaching a legal professional for advice to be reassuring, but for some, it can be intimidating. In situations where you are unhappy with treatment that you or a loved one has received, but you are unsure if said treatment is negligent, there are alternatives to approaching a legal professional. One of those alternatives is to write a letter of complaint to the treating medical professional.

By the end of this article, you should have an understanding of what a letter of complaint is, what it can achieve, who can complain, and how to go about raising a complaint.

What is a Letter of Complaint?

A letter of complaint is not a letter of claim.

A letter of claim is the first step to bringing a legal claim for compensation against a medical professional such as a doctor, hospital, surgery etc. The goal of the letter of claim is to lay out your claim in a clear and concise way in the hope of receiving financial compensation for negligent treatment.

A letter of complaint is not made with the goal of obtaining financial compensation. Instead, the goal with writing a letter of complaint is to receive a written explanation of what happened from the medical professionals point of view, an explanation of why the treatment was not successful, a possible apology, and the potential to make the individual medical professional or surgery/hospital etc. change their practices so that future patients do not suffer the same treatment you did.

If you make a formal written complaint, you will receive a response in writing which will give you a clear outline of the medical professions point of view and will help you assess if you have a potential claim or not.

Who Can Bring a Complaint?

To bring a complaint, you usually need to be the individual who has suffered the negative outcome. However, there are situations where you can make a complaint on someone else’s behalf:

  • if they are under the age of 18,
  • if they have passed away,
  • if they cannot complain themselves due to incapacity
  • if the disabled individual has given you authority to do so.

You can only complain about an issue/event once. For example, if you raised your complaint, and it went through the complaints procedure, but you were not satisfied with the result, you cannot start the process over again for the same instance. There are other options to pursue if you do not feel the result your complaint achieved was the right one.

You should bring your complaint as soon as possible, ideally within a year of the incident.

The Letter

To bring a complaint, you usually need to be the individual who has suffered the negative outcome. However, there are situations where you can make a complaint on someone else’s behalf:

  • if they are under the age of 18,
  • if they have passed away,
  • if they cannot complain themselves due to incapacity
  • if the disabled individual has given you authority to do so.

You can only complain about an issue/event once. For example, if you raised your complaint, and it went through the complaints procedure, but you were not satisfied with the result, you cannot start the process over again for the same instance. There are other options to pursue if you do not feel the result your complaint achieved was the right one.

You should bring your complaint as soon as possible, ideally within a year of the incident.

After Sending the Letter

Keep a copy of the letter for your own records—also, in case your copy gets lost in the post (if you post it) or lost in the medical practice's files.

Once received, your complaint should be acknowledged. You should also be informed how the complaint will be handled as well as the likely timescales.

You should now have an understanding of what a letter of complaint is, who can send one, and how to draft the letter.


This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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