When faced with problems, advocacy can provide the support you need to help you have your say

Advice and Information

If you have a bad experience and your care goes wrong, it’s vital that services put things right as soon as possible and learn from what happened.

However, we know from our conversations with the public that making a complaint isn’t always straightforward. Some people worry that by speaking up their care will be affected or that they won’t be taken seriously. Others find the process too complicated.

How we can help with NHS concerns or complaints

Healthwatch West Sussex runs the West Sussex Independent Health Complaints Advocacy Service.

NHS Complaints Advocacy is guaranteed under legislation, as a free, independent and confidential service to all people in England who need support to get their complaint resolved. It helps you know all your options, your rights and how to make sure your voice is heard.

We have run this service in West Sussex since 2015 so we know how local systems work and who to contact to get your problem sorted out. 

During 2018-19, we helped 456 local people understand their options and for many gave support to make or progress a formal NHS complaints.

Within the Independent Health Complaints Advocacy Service (IHCAS) we can provide differing levels of support, ranging from: giving information and signposting to other support services, meeting you in person to learn more about your concerns and discuss options, helping with making a health complaint or follow-up correspondents and telephone calls, and to supporting you in meetings to explore and resolve your concerns.

Our team of advocates will work closely with you to find out what is important to you when raising your concern or concerns and the outcome you want to achieve from making a health complaint. They can help you to find out all the available options to make an informed choice, say what you want and achieve your personal goals.

The service is free, independent, and confidential.

In November 2016, our partner organisation, Help & Care was awarded with the Advocacy Quality Performance Mark (QPM).

What is Advocacy?

Advocacy services help people to:

  • Have their voice heard in discussions that matter to them
  • Take part in decisions that affect their live
  • Explore all options available to make an informed decision
  • Have their wishes considered
  • Defend and promote their rights

What is an Advocate?

An IHCAS advocate is someone who is independent of the NHS and who is not one of your friends or family. Advocates provide support when you need it, differing from helping you access information or supporting you to have your voice heard in meetings.

Our service offers three levels of support:

  1. Simple Self-Help: Use our online or paper guide to support yourself through the complaints process.
  2. Supported Self-Help: A one-off meeting with one of our advocates and/or telephone support to guide you through the complaints process.
  3. Full Advocacy Support: For people who are unwell, bereaved, need help communicating, or who don't feel confident to make the complaint themselves, we will allocate an advocate to support you through the complaints process - this could include drafting your complaint letters, ensuring the NHS responds to you and attending resolution meetings with health professionals and managers.

We aim to provide a helpful, friendly and professional service, which promotes self-advocacy and empowerment.

Healthwatch West Sussex needs to ensure our limited resources are allocated appropriately to ensure fair provision of support for all. For this reason support may be limited; for example to 50 hours per individual case. Full details are contained in our Equitable Service Use policy and Service Agreement below:

IHCAS Equitable Service Use Policy (2019)

Service Agreement

We've created a short film to explain who we are and what work we do at the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman

Tips and tools for making a complaint

Self-help Guides

You can download our guides so you can feel confident in making your NHS health complaint.

Find out more

Our Support

Katie Weston advocate for Independent Health Complaints Advocacy Service (IHCAS) has recently been working with three local people to support them to resolve complaints they have with their local GP Practices.

Read the case study