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Health and Social Care Act 2001

Section 12: Independent advocacy services

67.Section 12 imposes a new duty on the Secretary of State to arrange independent advocacy services for people who wish to complain about the service they or someone they care for has received from the NHS. Advocacy is to be independent, so far as practicable, by being provided by a person or body other than the person or body against which the complaint is being made, or the person or body investigation or adjudicating the complaint (see subsection (5)).

68.PALS will play an important role in informing patients of the availability of independent advocacy services and how to access them. However PALS will not control access to independent advocacy, and patients will be able to access them directly. Independent advocacy services in each area could be commissioned and/or provided by the local authority (under section 2 of the Local Government Act 2000) or by other persons or bodies.

69.Under subsection (2) independent advocacy services will be made available when a complaint is being made using the hospitals complaints procedures or when complaining to the Health Service Commissioner for England or Health Service Commissioner for Wales. The Secretary of State may by regulations extend the scope of the procedures covered by the advocacy service. A possible extension could be complaints made to one of the regulating professional bodies (e.g. General Medical Council), or which give rise to disciplinary proceedings against a member of staff. Subsection (4) allows the Secretary of State to further extend these arrangements as he sees necessary to provide assistance to individuals in connection with complaints about health services.

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