The Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) offers support, advice and information on NHS services to patients, their carers, the general public and hospital staff.
As a PALS officer, your duties could range from helping distressed patients understand the NHS complaints procedure to advising bereaved relatives on how to access support services. Your work could also include:
As a senior PALS officer you could also manage the day-to-day running of the PALS service.
You could be based in a hospital or the community (as part of a local Primary Care Trust (PCT)). Your working day could involve travelling across different sites within the NHS Trust.
You would normally cover 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, you may need to work outside of these hours to meet the demands of the job.
In this job, you would be dealing with a variety of emotional situations.
PALS officers can earn between £18,200 and £22,000 a year.
Specialists, for example in bereavement, may earn up to around £27,500. Managers can earn around £34,200.
You will find most job opportunities within hospitals, ambulance services and in the community with local NHS Primary Care Trusts.
Jobs may be advertised through the local and national press, Jobcentre Plus offices, health service journals, the NHS Jobs website and on Directgov (Jobseekers page).
For most PALS officer jobs, you will need:
It could be an advantage to have experience of working with the deaf community (using British Sign Language), and with vulnerable groups such as children or mental health service users. It would also be useful to have experience in the health, social care or voluntary sector.
Advice, counselling or advocacy work could be useful.
A background in, for example, nursing could also be a helpful preparation for this work.
A common entry route is through volunteering, particularly within the NHS. Some PALS services are staffed by a mixture of paid staff and volunteers. Contact the voluntary services coordinator or manager at your local NHS Trust for further advice.
You may be able to start as a PALS secretary or administrator and work your way up to PALS officer.
Your training would usually involve learning on the job alongside experienced staff. This would often include developing a good working knowledge of your NHS Trust and local support services, as well as specific complaints procedures, data protection and confidentiality issues.
You may also have the opportunity to take short courses run through your employer or external organisations in areas such as equality and diversity, advanced communication skills, managing difficult situations, and bereavement.
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A patient advice and liaison service officer needs:
With experience, you could progress to senior PALS officer or PALS service manager (for this, you may need a degree in a subject related to the health, education or social care sectors and possibly a relevant postgraduate diploma).
Alternatively, you could move into other health care management jobs in hospitals, health authorities and NHS Trusts.
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