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The Ombudsman and Public Hospitals

What does the Ombudsman do?

The Ombudsman can examine complaints about the actions of a range of public bodies, including public hospitals. All hospitals providing public health services come within the Ombudsman's remit.

The Ombudsman can examine complaints about how hospital staff carry out their everyday administrative activities when providing public health services. These include complaints about delays or failing to take action. However, there are certain complaints that the Ombudsman cannot examine. These include complaints about:

  • private health care and
  • clinical judgements (diagnoses or decisions about treatment) in the public health service.

Is the Ombudsman independent?

Yes. The Ombudsman deals with all complaints independently and impartially when judging whether the action or decision of a public hospital or public health service provider was fair and reasonable.

What can I complain to the Ombudsman about?

You can complain about your experience in dealing with a hospital. This might include, among other issues, a hospital:

  • delaying in providing a service
  • failing to follow approved administrative procedures, protocols or reasonable rules
  • causing communication difficulties
  • failing to get your informed consent to a procedure
  • keeping poor records
  • failing to respect your privacy and dignity
  • having staff who are rude or unhelpful or who discriminate against you
  • being reluctant to correct an established error
  • giving slow or unsatisfactory responses to letters
  • refusing to give you information to which you are entitled or
  • failing to deal properly with your complaint.

Which hospitals are covered?

You can make a complaint about any public hospital, including those below.

  • Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Dublin
  • Beaumont Hospital, Dublin
  • St. James's Hospital, Dublin
  • Connolly Memorial Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin
  • Adelaide and Meath Hospital incorporating the National Children's Hospital, Tallaght, Dublin
  • St. Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin
  • The Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin
  • National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin
  • The Coombe Women's Hospital, Dublin
  • The Rotunda Hospital, Dublin
  • Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Dublin
  • Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, Dublin
  • The Children's University Hospital, Temple Street, Dublin
  • Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda
  • Cavan General Hospital
  • Kerry General Hospital
  • Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Ennis, Co Clare
  • University College Hospital, Galway
  • South Infirmary/Victoria University Hospital, Cork
  • Mayo General Hospital
  • Letterkenny General Hospital/St Conal's Hospital, Co Donegal

How will the Ombudsman deal with my complaint?

Once we establish that we can examine your complaint, we will ask the public hospital to send us a report. If necessary, the Ombudsman may also examine the files and records and may question people involved with the complaint. It can take time to gather the information that we need.

We will examine all the issues of maladministration. 'Maladministration' is defined in the Ombudsman Act 1980 as an action that was or might have been:

  • taken without proper authority
  • taken on irrelevant grounds
  • the result of negligence or carelessness
  • based on incorrect or incomplete information
  • improperly discriminatory
  • based on an undesirable administrative practice or
  • otherwise contrary to fair or sound administration.

Based on these maladministration criteria, we will decide whether:

  • your complaint is justified and
  • you have suffered due to the action or decision of the hospital.

If we find that you have suffered due to maladministration, and if the hospital has not taken steps to remedy this, we may recommend it does so. In our recommendation, we may ask the hospital to:

  • review what it has done
  • change its decision or
  • offer an appropriate remedy, including an explanation, an apology and/or financial compensation.

Can the Ombudsman investigate all matters relating to hospital services?

No, there are some things the Ombudsman cannot look at.

Private health care

The Ombudsman cannot look at:

  • the actions of private practitioners such as dentists, opticians and pharmacists or
  • complaints relating to private health care.

Clinical judgement

The Ombudsman cannot look at actions taken in relation to the clinical judgement (diagnoses or decisions about treatment) of medical professionals.


The Ombudsman cannot look at complaints relating to:

  • recruitment
  • pay and conditions of employment or
  • employment or other contracts.


The Ombudsman cannot look at complaints where:

  • the law provides for a right of appeal to a court, an independent tribunal or an independent appeal body (the Ombudsman can sometimes set aside this rule) or
  • the complaint is, or has been, the subject of legal proceedings before the courts.


Making a Complaint to the Ombudsman

When should I complain to the Ombudsman?

Before you complain to the Ombudsman you should try to resolve any issues with the hospital concerned using the hospital's own complaints procedure.

Each hospital has a Complaints Officer, appointed under the Health Act 2004. The Complaints Officer will examine your complaint and give you a written response within a stated period and advise you of your right to an independent review by a Review Officer.

If you cannot resolve your complaint in this way, you can ask the Ombudsman to investigate the matter.

Please remember to include any letters or other correspondence between you and the hospital concerned.

Complain to the Ombudsman as soon as possible. You should complain within 12 months of the:

  • decision or action taken by the public hospital or
  • date of decision of the hospital's Complaints Officer or Review Officer.

How long will it take the Ombudsman to deal with my complaint?

The time taken to reach a decision will vary from case to case, depending on how complex it is. However, we will keep you informed of what is happening with your complaint.

What will it cost me to complain to the Ombudsman?

Nothing - there is no charge for the services of the Ombudsman.

How do I complain to the Ombudsman?

You can write or call to:

The Office of the Ombudsman
18 Lower Leeson Street
Dublin 2.

Phone: LoCall 1890 22 30 30
Fax: 01 639 5674

Email: ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.ie

Can someone else complain on my behalf to the Ombudsman?

Yes, but only if you give them permission to do so. If you want to complain on behalf of someone else, you must get their permission first.

Accessible Services

If you have a disability and need help to use the services of the Ombudsman, contact us to arrange to speak to our Access Officer.

Related Files:


Public Hospitals

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The Ombudsman and Public Hospitals