Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is NHS complaints advocacy?
The NHS complaints advocacy service is a free, confidential and independent service designed to help you understand your rights and make informed choices when making a complaint about the NHS.
The service provides information and guidance and can offer you support on a one to one basis through trained health complaint advocates.
The purpose of the service is to ensure people understand the NHS complaints process, have access to information and support if they want it at any stage of the complaints process and to ensure that the best possible outcome to the complaint is achieved.
What does an advocate do?
An Advocate is a specially trained person who is there to support you and steer you through the process of making a complaint about the NHS. They do this by:
- Listening to your complaint and your concerns, either face to face or on the telephone depending on what you want
- Helping you clarify the main points of your complaint and discussing what you want to achieve
- Explaining the NHS complaints process
- Helping you write a letter of complaint, ensuring it is sent to the right person and place
- Supporting you and reading through letters and other documents that you may receive, explaining anything you don’t understand and advising you of your options
- Speaking to other agencies and organisations on your behalf when you ask them to
- Putting you in touch with other organisations if they aren’t able to help you
- Monitoring the progress of your complaint to help you get a positive outcome
Is there anything an advocate won’t be able to do?
An advocate can’t:
- Encourage you to make a complaint
- Give you legal advice or help with legal action
- Give you counselling or medical advice
- Investigate your complaint
- Provide you with help or assistance with complaints that are not covered by the NHS Complaint Regulations such as privately funded treatment
- Support you with your complaint if it falls outside of time limits for making a complaint which are set by the NHS complaint regulations 2009.
If we are not able to help you with an issue, Healthwatch Bury can signpost to other organisations who will be able to help you. You can contact Healthwatch Bury on 0161 253 6300.
Who can complain?
Anybody can make a complaint about the care, service or treatment they have received from the NHS or a private service commissioned by the NHS. You can in some cases make the complaint on behalf of someone else. We will be able to advise you about how to make the complaint and who you need to contact.
How can I complain about a Private Healthcare service?
If you had private treatment paid for by the NHS, you must follow the private company’s own complaints procedure. However, you can follow the NHS complaints procedure if you’re unhappy with the way the private treatment was arranged by the NHS, rather than the treatment itself.
If you want to complain about the treatment you received, you will need to complain directly to the healthcare provider (e.g. hospital, clinic, care home).
If you have private health insurance, you should contact your insurer for advice.
Can an advocate give me legal advice?
No, an advocate will not be able to provide you with any legal advice or advice about pursuing legal action. An NHS complaint advocate’s role if to provide you with support and information to assist you in making your own decisions. You will need to obtain your own independent legal advice if you want assistance in pursuing legal action.
What is PALS and what does it do?
Patient Advice and Liaison Service, known as PALS is a service which is provided by the NHS to offer you with information and advice if you have question, concern or a complaint. As PALS is part of the NHS, it is able to talk with other members of the NHS to provide you with information and answers. PALS can also give you information about how to make a complaint about the NHS and put you in touch with other organisations, like us, so that you can access advocacy support.
Whilst PALS is a service provided by the NHS, the service we offer you through Healthwatch NHS complaints advocacy service is not part of the NHS and is entirely independent.
Ring 0161 604 5897 to speak to a member of PALs covering the following:
- North Manchester General Hospital
- Fairfield Hospital, Bury
- The Royal Oldham Hospital
- Rochdale Infirmary
Why should I make a complaint? What difference can I make?
Healthwatch Bury NHS Complaints Advocacy Service is not designed to encourage complaints but if you are unhappy about the service, care or treatment you have received and want to complaint, we can support you.
When you contact us, we can discuss your complaint and identify all of the points you want to raise and what you are hoping to achieve at the end of the complaints process. This may be an apology, an explanation as to what happened or an investigation to identify what went wrong and what lessons have been learnt.
By raising your concerns in a complaint, not only can it help you to achieve a positive outcome, it can also highlight problems that exist within the NHs so that action can be taken to improve services.
Who pays for the advocacy service?
The statutory NHS complaints advocacy service is paid for by the Local Authority and not the NHS. It is an independent service which is free of charge for people who want to use it.
Can I make a complaint on behalf of a friend or relative who has died?
Yes. You are allowed to make a complaint about an NHS service on behalf of a friend or relative who has died or if the person had already started to make a complaint before they died, you can take over the complaint on their behalf. You do not need to have the person’s written permission to pursue the complaint.
In some cases the NHS may suggest another person to pursue the complaint if they decide you would not be a suitable representative. In this situation, if you are unhappy with this decision, you can contact the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO) and ask for an Independent Review.
Details of the Ombudsman can be found on its website: www.ombudsman.org.uk
Can I make a complaint on behalf of my child?
If you want to make a complaint on behalf of your child, the service you complain about will look at your complaint and consider why you are making the complaint, rather than the child. Before the service can consider the complaint, they must consider whether they believe there is a good enough reason for you making the complaint on the child’s behalf. If they do not agree there is a good enough reason for you to make the complaint on the child’s behalf, they will write to you and explain why they are refusing to accept the complaint.
Your complaint can also be refused if the service believes the complaint you want to make is not in the child’s best interest. In these circumstances, the service will write to you and explain why they have refused to accept the complaint.
Can I complain about something that happened a long time ago?
The NHS complaints process requires you make your complaint:
- Within 12 months of the incident happening, or
- Within 12 months of realising you had something to complain about.
However, if you want to make a complaint outside of these time limits, NHS organisations do have discretion to waive the time limits if you have a reason why you could not make your complaint in time, for example, if you were too ill.
In these circumstances, your complaint should be considered, provided that it is still possible to investigate your complaint effectively.
How do I refer my complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO)?
If you have completed the NHS complaints procedure and you are not satisfied with the way your complaint has been dealt with by the NHS organisation concerned you can take your complaint to the Parliamentary and Health Services Ombudsman (PHSO).
The role of the Ombudsman is to investigate complaints that individuals have been treated unfairly or have received poor service from the NHS.
There is a form on the Ombudsman’s website that you can use to make your referral which can be found.
You can find out more information or make a complaint referral through the Ombudsman’s website by:
- visiting ombudsman.org.uk
- Helpline – 0345 015 4033 (local rate)
- Email encryption tool called Egress Switch (go to website for further details)
If you want more information about referring your complaint to the Ombudsman or if you would like some support, you can contact us.