How can I complain about public services?

If you want to complain about a public service, what to do depends on the service you want to complain about.

This page outlines some of the services you might want to complain about and the ways it’s possible to complain about them.

Making a complaint about a nursery or school

Discussing your complaint with your child’s teacher or head teacher in the first instance can be an effective way to resolve a complaint.

This is sometimes called frontline or early resolution or stage 1.

You can do this in person or by phone, letter or email.

If this does not resolve the problem, you can ask your Local Education Authority to investigate your complaint (stage 2).

You will find information about how to do this on your Local Authority’s website by searching under the word complaints.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the Education Authority’s investigation of your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to look at your complaint.

Complaints about a teacher’s conduct should be made to the General Teaching Council Scotland.

Complaints about examinations should be made to the Scottish Qualifications Authority .

Making a complaint about a social work department

Discussing your complaint with your child’s social worker or their social worker’s manager can be an effective way to resolve a complaint.

This is sometimes called frontline or early resolution or stage 1.

You can do this in person or by phone, letter or email.

If this does not resolve the problem, you can ask your Local Authority to investigate your complaint (stage 2).

You will find information about how to do this your Local Authority’s website by searching under social work complaints.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the Local Authority’s investigation of your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to look at your complaint.

Complaints about a social worker’s fitness to practice should be made to the Scottish Social Services Council .

Making a complaint about other Local Authority services (such as housing, planning or environmental health)

You can make a complaint directly to your Local Authority about most services. You will find information about how to do this on your Local Authority’s website by searching under complaints.

If your complaint can’t be resolved at this stage – sometimes called frontline or early resolution or stage 1 – you can ask your Local Authority to investigate your complaint (stage 2).

If you are unhappy with the outcome of the Local Authority’s investigation of your complaint, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to look at your complaint.

Making a complaint about National Health Services

You can complain directly to:

  • the medical professional involved in your care,
  • a senior member of staff or practice manager, or
  • the complaints team at your local health board.

You will find information about how to do this here.

If your complaint cannot be resolved at the first stage, either:

  • because you are unhappy with the response you have received to your initial complaint, or
  • because it is too serious or complex a matter to resolve at stage 1,

your complaint may be progressed as a formal investigation (stage 2).

If your complaint is still unresolved at the completion of a stage 2 investigation, you can ask the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman to look at your complaint.

Other links

NHS inform has a factsheet for children and young people about how to make complaints about NHS services.

The Patient Advice and Support Service offers information about NHS complaints procedures, independent advice and advocacy support.

Complaints about independent healthcare services (not NHS services) should be made to Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Making a complaint about a registered care service

Complaints can be raised informally with the care service in the first instance, but if this does not resolve the situation you can:

  • make a complaint to the care service using its formal complaints procedure,
  • make a complaint about the service directly to the Care Inspectorate , or
  • make a complaint to both the care service and the Care Inspectorate.

Making a complaint about the police

If you have a complaint about the police you can contact Police Scotland online, by post, by telephone, or in person at a police station. Information about how to make a complaint can be found here.

If your complaint is about a senior police officer you can make a complaint to the Scottish Police Authority.

If you are not happy with the response to a complaint, you can ask the Police Investigations & Review Commissioner (PIRC) to review the way your complaint was handled.