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About the NHS

Get involved in the NHS

Since January 2003, all NHS bodies have had a legal duty to involve and consult the public about the running of local health services. Patients are listened to and actions taken to meet their concerns.

There are many ways you can get involved to influence and improve health and social care services in your area. They include the following: 


Healthwatch is the new independent consumer champion that gathers and represents the views of the public about health and social care services in England.

It operates both on a national and local level, and ensures that the views of the public and people who use services are taken into account.

National level - Healthwatch England

Healthwatch England was established in October 2012. As a national body it works closely with local Healthwatch and advises NHS England (the commissioning board), local authorities, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and the Secretary of State. It was set up as a committee of the CQC.

Healthwatch England also alerts the CQC to concerns about health and social care providers, and recommends actions if necessary. It has its own identity within the CQC, and operates independently of them, but can use the CQC’s expertise and infrastructure. 

Healthwatch England is funded as part of the Department of Health’s grant in aid to the CQC, and is required to make an annual report to Parliament.

Local level - Local Healthwatch

Local Healthwatch organisations were established in April 2013. They take over the work previously done by the Local Involvement Networks (LINks), but with additional functions. 

A local Healthwatch is an independent organisation, able to employ its own staff and to involve volunteers, so it can become the influential and effective voice of the public. It will have to keep accounts and make its annual reports available to the public.

The aim of local Healthwatch is to give citizens and communities a stronger voice to influence and challenge how health and social care services are provided within their locality. 

  • It represents the views of the public, patients, health and care service users and their carers and families on the health and wellbeing boards.
  • It reports to Healthwatch England any concerns about a health or social care service  Healthwatch England can then recommend that the CQC takes action, if necessary.
  • It helps people find information about local health and care services, including how to access them.
  • It provides authoritative, evidence-based feedback to organisations responsible for commissioning or delivering local health and social care services.
  • It visits services and provides reports and recommendations about how these could be improved.

Local Healthwatch has to be representative of its local community as laid out in the Health and Social Care Act 2012. This includes ethnic groups, different users of services and carers.

The following website will provide information about Healthwatch's developments:

Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

PALS is a key driver of public and patient involvement in the NHS. Officers from PALS are available in all hospitals. They offer confidential advice, support and information on health-related matters to patients, their families and their carers.

If you are concerned about your care or treatment, speak to a member of the PALS team and they will try to resolve the situation. If they are unable to help, they will explain the formal NHS complaints procedure to you and put you in touch with the right people to speak to.

To contact your local PALS:

NHS foundation trusts

The most successful NHS trusts are being offered the opportunity to become foundation trusts. This will allow them greater autonomy from central government, and requires that local people, patients and staff have a say in their day-to-day management. 

The best way to influence your local NHS foundation trust is to become a member. All local people, patients and NHS staff are eligible to become members of an NHS foundation trust and take an active part in its management. Members can also elect a representative from among themselves to serve on the trust’s board of governors.

Contact your local NHS foundation trust for more information on how to become a member, governor or non-executive director. A list of NHS foundation trusts, together with contact details, can be found on Monitor's website.

Other ways you can help

In addition to the options mentioned above, there are lots of other ways to become involved in improving healthcare in your local community.

Look out for opportunities advertised by local hospitals and GP surgeries. Most charities, religious groups and care homes involved in healthcare also welcome voluntary workers. A few hours of your time each week can make a huge difference. Visit the volunteering section on this site, which may give you some ideas of where to start.


The 2 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Editor NHS Choices said on 18 June 2014

Dear sShaq
Once you registered with a GP you are on the NHS system. However, you don't have to register with a dentist. Just make an appointment with a dentist that accepts NHS patients. You can find dentist using the find services search on NHS Choices

More about registering with a GP

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sShaq said on 15 June 2014

I recently moved to uk as a spouse of a british national.i want to know how i can become an nhs patient because i need to see a dentisit asap and i cant afford a high cost.please guide me.

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Page last reviewed: 15/04/2013

Next review due: 15/04/2015

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