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Organisations that can help you make a complaint about health services

This advice applies to England

NHS care is usually very good and most people don’t have any problems. But occasionally things can go wrong. This page tells you about organisations that can help you sort out a problem.

Organisations that can help with general NHS complaints

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. In some areas, local Healthwatch carry out these advocacy services. In other areas, local authorities may group together to provide the service at a regional level.

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.

There are a number of NHS complaints advocacy providers and your local Healthwatch can give you the contact details for the services available in your area. Providers include:

Voiceability NHS Complaints Advocacy Service
Tel: 0300 330 5454
Textphone: 0786 002 2939

Carers Federation
Greater Manchester NHS Independent Complaints Advocacy
Tel: 0808 801 0390

Cloverleaf Advocacy
NHS Complaints Advocacy Service - North Yorkshire
Tel: 0300 012 4212

NHS Complaints Advocacy
Tel: 0300 456 2370

Independent Health Complaints Advocacy
Tel: 0330 440 9000

Sheffield Advocacy Hub
Complaints Advocacy Service
Tel: 0800 035 0396

SWAN Advocacy Network
Swan Advocacy Independent NHS Complaints Advocacy Service
Tel: 0333 344 7926

The Care Forum (Well Aware)
NHS Complaints Advocacy
Tel: 0808 808 5252

Using the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) offers confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters. It provides a point of contact for patients, their families and their carers.

PALS does not investigate individual complaints but can give general advice about the NHS complaints procedures and may be able to help sort out some less serious complaints. You can find details of how to contact the PALS service on the NHS Choices website at

Local Healthwatch

Local Healthwatch is the ‘consumer champion’ for health services. In some areas, local Healthwatch organisations will just be able to give general advice and support about complaints about the NHS. In other areas, they will be able to act as an advocate when you make a complaint. But they can't investigate individual complaints.

You can also find details of any local Healthwatch organisations and the services they offer in your area on their website. Their website also tells you more about how to complain about NHS treatment and services.

Your local Healthwatch will often 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. You can get more information about this at:

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: and their helpline is 020 8423 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 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:

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:

Young Minds provides information and advice for anyone with concerns about the mental health of a child or young person. The website is:

Pandas Foundation

Pandas Foundation offers advice and support to individuals, their families and carers experiencing pre and post-natal depression. Their website is :


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:


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:


Together is a national charity working with people with mental health issues. Their services include advocacy and support groups. Their website is:

Phone: 020 7336 8445


Organisations that can help with complaints about health services for older people or those who feel vulnerable

Age UK

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: They also have a helpline on: 0800 169 6565.

Elder abuse

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: and they have a confidential freephone helpline: 080 8808 8141.

Carers UK

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:

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 and 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:


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.

  • More about the EASS

Human Rights

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

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