top of page

Complaining about care


If you have a problem with any care provider and it’s a matter of when, not if,

there are set procedures to take and ways to protect yourself and your relative.


These differ, depending on the complaint and the provider. But there is a step-by-step approach to follow if you are to have any chance of action, improvement and/or success. Some people resort to placing hidden cameras to gather evidence, but frequent and unexpected visits are a must, if your relative is in a care situation – at home or in a residential home – especially if you have concerns.


1. If your relative has suffered physical or mental harm or been put in a harmful situation:

  • If you think a criminal offence has been committed – that your relative has been subjected to abuse or harmed, contact the Police immediately along with your local Social Services department - even if your relative is self-funding - and alert the care home owner.



  • If you are concerned but don’t think a crime has been committed, notify local Social Services and the CQC as well as the care provider or home manager;

  • Check the care records – you are entitled to do so – and take a photo of the records on your phone and of any injuries or bad practice. If the records are inadequate, this is a very worrying sign, notify the CQC and Social Services;

  • Find out what options you have to move your relative to another care home or to another care provider;

2. Do not wait for things to improve - they won't;

  • Make a record of what has happened, when, where, who was involved. Get witness accounts, see if any other families have been affected;

  • Talk to the manager/owner and put your concerns in writing. Follow the care organisation’s own complaints procedure - although it will probably be a waste of time;

  • In all likelihood, the provider will investigate internally. They will almost certainly brush you off, so you need to be ready to take it further and be a nuisance. They may get their own employees from another home to carry out an ‘independent investigation’. Ha ha. This will be a brush-off as well;

  • Pester Social Services. They will have their own complaints’ procedure. Ask for a ‘safeguarding’ order on your relative. This would mean a careful watch was instituted and Social Services would monitor – whether your relative is in a residential home or living in their own home and it doesn't matter if they are self-funding. Don’t worry about doing this. Better safe than sorry;

  • Social services may launch an inquiry, you will need to prepare your case. Tell the social workers everything. They can help you improve your relative’s care;

  • Be careful. Even if a safeguarding order is in place, it doesn’t mean that your relative is safe. You still need to keep a check on them





3. If you have complained and nothing has changed:

  • Keep going with your records and photo evidence;

  • Make a nuisance of yourself to the manager/owner;

  • Appeal against any rulings;

  • Make sure Social Services/the CQC are aware that things have not improved. You have to be persistent;

  • Keep an eye on your relative, check their care records carefully – make sure they are eating, drinking, bathing and take copies, if you can of their care record - you can photograph with your phone;

  • Arrange with other families to keep a check on each other’s relatives – so you have eyes and ears on them, even if you’re not there;

  • IMPORTANT - Move your relative.


4. If you are unhappy with the care but do not suspect any harm:

Talk to care staff - ask what is going on, tell them your concerns. If you are not taken seriously or get no answers, you need to take it further. If you don't look out for your relative, who will? 

  • Keep a careful record of any concerns – log times, dates and observations. See if you can get witnesses and see if any other relatives are also concerned. There is strength in numbers. The manager can’t brush you off so easily if you are in a group;

  • Take photographs of any injuries or bad practice and make sure the photos are date stamped;

  • At the same time, contact the person responsible for the care, in the first instance the carer or key worker, and explain your concerns;

  • If you are not satisfied or nothing changes, take your concerns to the care manager/owner – and make sure you put them in writing. Do not be afraid to pester them. It is their job to provide proper care;

  • If you are still not satisfied, contact your relative’s social worker or, if they don’t have a social worker, contact the local Adult Help Desk. All concerns about care, whether or not you received funding, can be reported to social services. Provide them with all the evidence you have gathered and any emails you have sent or received;

  • At the same time, if you have a serious concern, you should contact the CQC, the main regulator for the care industry. You can contact them on 03000 616161 or here.

5.  When things have gone wrong. It is important to consider what you are trying to achieve. Do you:

  • Simply want to improve your relative’s care? Follow the suggestions above.

  • Want to alert the authorities to serious breaches of ethics and care codes? Again, follow the suggestions above.

 Social services and the CQC are mainly aimed at improving services, they are not interested in righting past wrongs;

  • They do not have powers to ‘punish’ individuals and their focus is on future improvement of a care provider. But local authorities can hold hearings where complainants effectively ‘get their day in court’ and are able to state their case while the care provider is forced to listen. This will go into the records. It can be some satisfaction;

  • The CQC can issue fines, in the most extreme cases, and it can stop care providers taking on new clients or even close them down. But, again, this is mainly concerned with the state of care going forward – not with what has happened to your relative. And the CQC is extremely loath to close a home or even to put it in special measures.


 6. Legal action:

  • The Police can take criminal action in cases of direct abuse. But their powers are limited and the burden of necessary proof high, so that named individuals would have to have deliberately acted abusively for a prosecution to offer much chance of success;

  • Current legislation, The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, requires considerable evidence of clear, wilful wrongdoing or neglect before a prosecution stands a chance;

  • Even if someone dies, unless it is as a direct result of a particular action, the Police may not be able to act, although they will investigate if CPR has not been given or appropriate medical treatment;

  • But not doing something, is not sufficient for a conviction – even if that something is giving adequate care;

  • Keeping poor records of essential care is probably not enough for a prosecution;

  • Not keeping proper checks on residents is probably not enough;

  • Lying about events is also not enough for action to be taken.


You can try to take civil action against a care provider through a no-win, no-fee lawyer or even through your own household insurance, if it provides for legal advice. But:

  • They will not take on your case if they do not think they will win;

  • They will probably  look to take action under medical negligence legislation, so you would need to be able to prove particular medical harm has taken place;

  • It is hard and probably will not succeed but it is worth trying, if you can stand it.


Taking on the care industry, is hard and demoralising

for families already under strain because of their relative’s infirmity.



Whether you are just registering a concern or contacting the authorities over the circumstances of a death, you can be made to feel as though you’re wasting your time and you will achieve nothing.  Going through a full-scale social services, General Medical Council or Police inquiry is not for the faint-hearted.


They may want to help and would like nothing better than taking action against bad carers and providers. But it is not easy for them - or you. As the relative, you have to be prepared to relive events over and over again, events that you may prefer not to think about. You may feel there is no point. But if you don’t do anything, who will?


Concerned relatives have found, even in the case of a death care staff can:


  • Brush you off and make you feel like a fool,

  • Aggressively reject sincere concerns,

  • Make unfounded accusations against you,

  • Lie about events to you, to social services, to the CQC and even to the Police,

  • They may also conceal facts, falsify records and generally not provide the care or treatment your relative needs or you are paying for.

 And still nothing 'happens'.  


While some care staff are wonderful, others have no pride in their work - as shown in many CQC reports. Some will be under pressure - expected to care for too many residents, left to cope alone because there are insufficient staff.

The consequence is a toxic culture in which profits, rather than care, is the paramount consideration of the employer. High-class, expensive nursing homes often suffer from this culture.


The fault for neglect and abuse lies firmly at the door of the care providers - which own the homes and employs the carers. 

Take a photograph of any injuries or paperwork you are concerned about

The CQC is the main care regulator and you can contact them directly with concerns

A whole new breed of lawyers is getting involved in care abuse and neglect cases

bottom of page