The National Health Service Act 2006 requires independent advocacy services to be made available to individuals making or intending to make a complaint about care or treatment provided or funded by the NHS. NHS Complaints Advocates offer assistance, by way of representation or otherwise, to people making such a complaint in order that the person is guided and supported through the relevant process. 

About the NHS Complaints Advocate Role

What is an 'NHS Complaints Advocate'?

NHS Complaints Advocates help people who are unhappy about the care or treatment they are receiving or have received from a health service – either a NHS service or one that is funded by the NHS. NHS Complaints Advocates can also help someone who is complaining on behalf of someone else, for example the parent of a child or relative of a person receiving palliative care. There may be many reasons why a person will benefit from having an advocate support them through the complaints process. They may be recovering from physical or mental illness, they may have a physical or intellectual disability or they may find the matter of their complaint too distressing to go through the process alone.

A person may want the help of an advocate at any point of the complaints process, whether at the beginning of the process or wanting to know more about what the process entails; having received a response to their complaint that they are unhappy with; having been asked to attend a meeting by the NHS provider (often called a ‘local resolution meeting’); or where they are considering or want help to take their complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO).

What does a NHS Complaints Advocate do?

No matter what stage of the complaints process a person is involved in, a NHS Complaints Advocate can help them by:

  • providing information and advice about the relevant stage of the complaints process;
  • helping them to know their options and clarify the outcomes they want from their complaint;
  • helping them to draft complaint letters;
  • preparing them for and attending meetings with them, helping them to advocate for themselves or advocating on their behalf if the person wants them to;
  • making representations to the relevant body at any time it appears that the complaints process is not being followed.

NHS Complaints Advocates can support a person to increase their confidence to engage with and raise their concerns about organisations that can often seem intimidating and inaccessible. By having an NHS Complaints Advocate, the process can become clearer and less frustrating, and a person making a complaint can feel that they know how to put their experience into words and be heard. Our NHS Complaints Advocates are there to make sure that people making a complaint about a health service do not feel alone or powerless in doing so.

The help provided by our NHS Complaints Advocates is practical but also sensitive to the impact that experiences of poor care and treatment can have, whether this involves deterioration in a person’s condition, chronic health problems or disability or the loss of a loved one. Our experienced Advocates are sensitive to the challenges and distress that can arise from telling others about experiences of poor care and treatment and are trained to work with people who have experienced trauma.

No matter what your experience, you will be in good hands.

NHS Complaints Advocacy FAQs

1. What is the criteria for having access to an NHS Complaints Advocate?

Section 248 of the NHS Act 2006 states that the relevant independent advocacy services are for individuals in England or Wales making or intending to make:

  • a complaint under a procedure operated by a health service body or independent provider (a private limited company delivering a healthcare service by contract for the NHS);
  • a complaint to the Health Service Commissioner for England (PHSO) or the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales.

A Health Service body (HSB) means any body established to carry out functions in relation to the NHS, in particular:

  • any Regional, District or Special Health Authority;
  • any Special Trustees;
  • any NHS Trust; or
  • any trustees appointed for an NHS Trust by Order made by the Secretary of State for Health under s.11 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990.
  • GP practices can also opt to become a HSB.

It also includes complaints about relevant UK government departments and some other public organisations (for example about the Care Quality Commission).

There is no other statutory criteria to receive this service.

2. What kind of service can I receive help to complain about?

Relevant complaints may relate to:

  • Urgent and emergency care
  • GP services,
  • Hospitals,
  • Mental health services,
  • Dental services,
  • General or specialist services,
  • Community services,
  • Healthcare in prisons and criminal justice,
  • Eyecare services,
  • Sexual health services,
  • Pharmacies,
  • Pathology services

3. Can you help me to get compensation for an injury as a result of relevant care or treatment?

We are not able to help someone seek an award for compensation for any harm they have received as a result of receiving care or treatment, whether it is in relation to the provision of advice or representation. A NHS Complaints Advocate can help someone to seek legal advice and / or representation but we are unable to recommend any specific provider, legal firm, etc.

Further Reading:

National Health Service Act 2006; NHS Services ExplainedFeedback and complaints about the NHS in England;  Feedback and complaints about the NHS in Wales;