NHS complaints advocacy services
Every area of England has an independent NHS complaints advocacy service funded by the local authority. They can help you make a complaint about the NHS and have replaced the ICAS service. This service is open to everybody and is free of charge. Advocacy providers can help you with writing letters and preparing for meetings. They can also arrange for an advocate to attend a meeting with you. An advocate will not try to persuade you to take any particular course of action and will always respect your decisions. If you have a severe learning disability or a mental health condition, you may find it useful to have an independent advocate speak on your behalf.
The service is provided by VoiceAbility in Northamptonshire.
Tel: 01604 592702 (Mon - Fri 9am to 5pm)
Unit F17, Moulton Park Business Centre
Using Patient Advice and Liaison Services (PALS) for an NHS hospital complaint
If your complaint is about treatment in an NHS hospital, you may find it helpful to seek advice from a local Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). Although they can't investigate individual complaints, PALS staff can give general advice about complaints procedures and may be able to help sort out some less serious complaints. The hospital's website should have details of how to contact PALS or ask a member of staff or the hospital switchboard (see 'Local health and social care complaints contacts' below). However, in practice, PALS are not always as accessible as people may expect. For example, PALS staff may cover different hospital sites or work part time.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire is the ‘consumer champion’ for health and care services in Northamptonshire. Healthwatch Northamptonshire is able to give general advice and support about complaints about the NHS but they can't investigate individual complaints.
Healthwatch Northamptonshire will ask for general feedback on the health services you have used. It can be helpful to send them your views, even if you have nothing to complain about and just want to report a good service.
Authorised representatives from local Healthwatch organisations have the power to request information from organisations providing health services, who have a legal duty to reply in writing to reports and recommendations made by local Healthwatch organisations within 20 days - in more complex cases, this time limit is 30 days. Information obtained in this way could help you make a complaint, although local Heathwatch can't investigate individual complaints.
Authorised representatives from local Healthwatch organisations also have the power to enter premises to observe how activities are carried on there. Some premises are excluded. For example, local Healthwatch organisations don’t have the right to enter premises if this would get in the way of providing services or if it would affect the privacy and dignity of anyone there. If you have serious concerns about how health services are carried out in a particular place, contact your local Healthwatch who may, in some cases, carry out a visit, although they don’t investigate individual complaints.
Clinical commissioning groups patient liaison teams
In some areas, the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) offers a patient liaison service. They can give general advice and support about NHS complaints. Local Healthwatch can tell you if there's a CCG patient liaison service in your area.
The Patients Association
The Patients Association is a national healthcare charity that highlights patients’ concerns and needs. They give advice to help people get the best out of their healthcare and tell you where to get more information and advice. Their website is www.patients-association.org.uk and their helpline is 020 8423 8999.
The Patients Association helpline is the national non-disease specific helpline for anyone trying to navigate the often complex health and social care systems in the UK. The helpline service is free and confidential. The practical information and guidance the helpline gives covers:
- access to treatments
- concern about treatments
- how to make a complaint about any health or social care service
- social care
- patient’s rights and responsibilities
- changing (or finding) your GP or dentist
- seeing your medical records
The helpline will often signpost callers to other organisations when appropriate.
A call back service is provided for those who call out of hours. The helpline number 020 8423 8999 and is open Mon-Fri 9.30am – 5.00pm or they can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information see https://www.patients-association.org.uk/helpline/ and for downloadable information resources.
For further information please contact Lucinda Keenan, the helpline manager at lucinda@patients-association or call on 020 423 8999.
Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA)
AvMA is a national charity that provides free specialist advice and support with complaints where harm is believed to have been caused or there are patient safety implications. The website is www.avma.org.uk and the helpline number is 0845 123 23 52 (Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm).
Organisations for users of mental health services
Mind Legal Advice Line provides legal information and general advice on the law about mental health, for example, mental capacity, community care, human rights, discrimination and equality. Their website is www.mind.org.uk
Mind Infoline provides information on a range of topics including types of mental health problems, where to get help, medication and alternative treatments and advocacy. Their website is www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/
Young Minds provides information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person. The website is www.youngminds.org.uk.
Phone: 020 7336 8445
Pandas Foundation offers advice and support to individuals, their families and carers experiencing pre and post-natal depression. Their website is www.pandasfoundation.org.uk
Rethink provide practical advice and information about issues such as different types of therapy and medication, benefits, debt, money issues, the police, courts and prison and your rights under the Mental Health Act 1983 and other laws. Their website is www.rethink.org
Sane provides practical help, emotional support and specialist information to individuals affected by mental health problems, their family, friends and carers. They can help you consider options for support or action. Their website is www.sane.org.uk
Together is a national charity working with people with mental health issues. Their services include advocacy and support groups. Their website is www.together-uk.org
Organisations that can help with complaints about health services for older people or those who feel vulnerable
Age UK produce useful guidance about your NHS rights and what should happen when you’re discharged from hospital. They can also give you advice about if you’re being discriminated against because of your age, for example, if your doctor doesn't refer you to a consultant because of your date of birth. Their website is www.ageuk.org.uk. They also have a helpline on 0800 169 6565.
Action on elder abuse is an organisation that can help if an older person is being abused in hospital. This could include neglect or physical abuse. Their website is www.elderabuse.org.uk and they have a confidential freephone helpline 080 8808 8141.
Carers UK is an organisation for carers, including those caring for people with mental health issues. They provide information, advice, support and campaign for change. Their website is www.carersuk.org
The charity Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) provides free specialist medico-legal advice on the potential for making a clinical negligence claim and what this involves, and can arrange support or representation at healthcare related inquests. AvMA also maintains a list of specialist clinical negligence solicitors. The website is www.avma.org.ukand the helpline is 0845 123 23 52 (Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm).
The Public Law Project can give you more information about how to make an application for judicial review. Their website is www.publiclawproject.org.uk
The Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) helpline is for people who think they may have experienced discrimination. They don’t give legal advice, but they aim to support you if you're referred from local organisations. These include advisory groups, faith-based organisations and other community groups that support people experiencing discrimination. You can call the helpline directly, but it's best if you go to an advice organisation first. They can then make contact with the service on your behalf. The telephone number is 0808 800 0082.
The British Institute of Human Rights is an organisation that can help with information about your human rights in relation to health care services. They produce useful guides, for example, about capacity issues in a healthcare setting. Their website is www.bihr.org.uk.