Making a complaint

If you are unhappy with any aspect of your maternity care you may decide to write a letter of complaint. Complaint letters are a way to highlight issues of concern from your experiences. Hospital management and carers (midwives, doctors) are supportive of complaint letters as they are often the only way that problem areas can be identified and addressed. It is very important that women write complaint letters so that improvements to services can be made. Also for women who had negative experiences, many find that writing a complaint letter gives them a sense of closure.

Women often ask what warrants a complaint letter; there is no specific answer to this question. Women write letters on a variety of issues which concern them; there is no issue which is too big or too small. Complaint letters may be in relation to issues which occurred during antenatal care (pregnancy), during labour, during the birth or during the postnatal period. Complaints can be made to highlight a general issue or to raise concerns on a specific policy. You may also raise concerns relating to a specific individual—their manner, the way they treated you or a procedure they may have performed.

There are a number of ways in which you may lodge a complaint.

•directly to your health care provider – private obstetrician or midwife
•to your local maternity unit – Head Consultant and Director of Midwifery
•to the HSE, Your Service, Your Say
•to the Office of the Ombudsman

To make a complaint against a specific individual:

* Obstetrician or another doctor – Irish Medical Council

* Midwife or Nurse – The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland

Complaints should be respectful and clear, highlighting the key points you would like to make, providing examples, details, and any relevant evidence which will help illustrate your points.

Written complaints must be acknowledged within 7 days and a written reply provided within 30 working days of receipt.

Following your complaint, your maternity unit will:
•Review your birth notes (this is why it is important to have your own copy of your birth records).
•Send a reply which explains or responds to the points raised in your letter.
•Possibly invite you to attend a meeting to discuss your letter further.

If you receive a reply in response to your letter and feel it needs further clarification, you may request a meeting or may alternatively send another letter highlighting your issues with their response.

If at any time you require research, information or support on issues pertaining to your complaint/query, please contact AIMSI at

If you have been invited to attend a meeting to discuss your complaint, AIMS Ireland recommend that your birth partner/husband/family member goes along with you. Some women have found these meetings to bring on strong emotions and it is best to have someone there to support you. It may also feel less intimidating to have someone with you.

Finally, AIMS Ireland would again like to highlight how important your letter is to the maternity system. Hospitals can only change what they know; the more women communicate, the more likely improvements will be made. It is a difficult decision to make a complaint. Many women, AIMS Ireland representatives included, have commented on how difficult it can be to write and then send their complaint letters. You are not alone; we are here to support you in any way we can.

There are many reasons why women, and, sometimes their partners, may benefit from counselling after the birth of a baby. There are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ reasons for seeking counselling.

Contact Details for Complaints

1) HSE – Your Service Your say:

 Please note, there is a time compliance with HSE complaints services. A written acknowledgement should be received immediately and complaints officers will look into your complaint within 30 days of the date of acknowledgement. If your complaint will take longer than 30 days for a reply, the complaints officer must acknowledge this within the 30 day reply timeframe and an update will be provided every 20 days. If the HSE does not comply to these terms, please contact AIMS Ireland at

2) To make a complaint about a midwife or nurse – An Bord Altranais:

3) To make a complaint about a doctor – Medical Council:

Other things you can do

1) Contact your local TD with your experience or what you would like to see from Irish maternity services

2) Contact the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD

3) Share your story publicly on AIMS Ireland blog or in the media.

4) Seek legal support. AIMSI work with a team of lawyers familiar with the birthing environment in Ireland. We are able to facilitate contact with legal expertise at short notice if you feel you are being threatened. Please contact if you need this type of help