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Complain About A Care Home In Northern Ireland

Care Home Contracts

Many care home residents have a positive experience during their stay in a care home, the home enables them to live meaningful, productive lives whilst receiving care personalised according to their likes and needs.

In most care homes, the management and staff go above and beyond to ensure high standards of care. Sometimes issues can arise but as care homes are always looking to provide the best service possible, they welcome your feedback.

If you do have concerns about the service your loved one receives, the care homes want to know so they can make things right. Mistakes can happen, if you believe there is an ongoing issue or that something went wrong, you should always make this known to the care home. You have the right to make a complaint, have it investigated and get a response. Firstly, talk to members of staff or the manager of the care home, generally doing this will resolve the situation.

Making a complaint can feel awkward or a worrying task, but it needs to be done, below is a general guide on how to make a complaint about a care home.

Making a complaint

Never feel embarrassed about raising a complaint, if you think there is a problem with your care or certain standards are not met it can have a big impact on you or your loved one’s welfare.

In Northern Ireland, all registered care homes are required to have a complaints procedure that tells you how to complain about the service. Before you make a formal complaint, you should first have a conversation with staff or management at the care home. You can make your complaint face to face, over the phone or via email.

Your complaint should be made to the care home’s manager or if you or a loved one has been placed in a care home by a Health and Social Care Trust, you can complain directly to the Trust. It’s not necessary to make the care home aware that you have complained to the Trust but a full investigation may be difficult if the care home is unaware.

If you need help with making your complaint, you can contact the Patient and Client Council. They can provide you with information and expert advice for free and in confidence.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) monitors how complaints to regulated services, such as care homes, are handled so it is a good idea to contact them as well. The RQIA cannot investigate individual complaints but will take them into account during inspections and reviews.

Raising awareness

If there’s an issue, the care home staff, or management may not be aware of it as mistakes and misunderstandings happen. Because of this, your first step should be to talk to them to find a solution. Doing this allows the care home to listen to your feedback and fix the problem quickly to the best of their ability.

Normally, speaking to the manager resolves the problem and you won’t have to take your complaint about the care home further. Agreeing on a timeframe is a good way to ensure you or your loved one’s concerns are heard and acted upon quickly.

If the care service is provided by the NHS, contact your local NHS board.

Making a care complaint in Northern Ireland

Mental health act complaints

Mental health issues in Northern Ireland are covered by the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and outlines the treatments and rights of people with a mental health condition.

If you believe a professional has not followed their responsibilities regarding mental health rights, you should first ask to see the complaints procedure of the concerned practice, hospital or trust. Be aware, you must be or have previously been a patient to make a complaint or be deemed a suitable representative by the institution to complain on someone’s behalf.

If the complaint is not resolved through the institution’s complaints procedure you can contact the Ombudsman or request a judicial review, which enables a court to review the decision. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission can help you understand what rights you or a loved one has in relation to the Mental Health Order and will be able to provide support.

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Making a complaint

If you decide to make a written complaint, either by letter or email, make sure you give full, specific details of your concerns and what results you expect. Also, it is important to make it clear that you are making a complaint and not just pointing out an issue within a care home.

Keeping good records is important if you need to take the matter further as this can be used as evidence. Put as much information as you can in writing and keep notes of phone calls, meetings and other relevant events.

Your complaint should include:

What the problem is and how it impacts your loved one, for example emotionally, financially or their overall wellbeing.

Who is involved, with names and position of staff.

When and where the incident occurred or if it is ongoing. Providing a timeline of events.

What you have already done to try to resolve the problem.

What outcome you want from your complaint.

Unhappy with the outcome

If you’re unhappy about the outcome of your complaint and the response from the care home or the Trust, you can contact the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman (NIPSO). You can refer your complaint to NIPSO using their online form, by telephone or email.

If your complaint meets their criteria and they have the legal authority to investigate the issue, NIPSO will decide if they should investigate it. If your case is best decided in court or you intend to take the matter to court, NIPSO will not investigate your complaint.

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