Patient Advice and Liaison Service Officer

The Job and What's Involved

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:

  • Giving advice with a view to resolving concerns about services or care.
  • Liaising with staff, managers and support groups to find solutions to problems.
  • Informing patients and the public about how they can get more involved in their own health care and with local NHS services.
  • Listening to patients concerns, suggestions and experiences and raising these with people who design and manage services.
  • Providing information about how to get independent help with a complaint.
  • Supervising and coordinating PALS volunteers.

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.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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).

Education and Training

For most PALS officer jobs, you will need:

  • Previous experience in a customer care, mediation, patient or service user focused role (including dealing with complaints).
  • A good general standard of education – (this can vary between NHS Trusts) for some this will mean GCSE's (grades A-C) in English and maths, with others you may need a level 3 qualification such as a relevant BTEC National Diploma or NVQ Level 3.

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.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A patient advice and liaison service officer needs:

  • Excellent listening and communication skills.
  • The ability to deal with complex and sensitive situations.
  • Empathy and the ability to work closely with distressed patients and bereaved relatives.
  • A non-judgemental approach.
  • Sensitivity and resilience.
  • The ability to cope with pressure and highly emotional situations.
  • The ability to prioritise and organise a varied workload.
  • Mediation skills.
  • The ability to train others.
  • An understanding of the issues surrounding confidentiality.
  • Team working skills and the ability to work on your own initiative.
  • Good IT and keyboard skills.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

Get Further Information

People 1st, 2nd Floor, Armstrong House,
38 Market Square, Uxbridge UB8 1LH
Tel: 01895 857000
Websites: www.people1st.co.uk

NHS Careers,
PO Box 376, Bristol BS99 3EY
Tel: 0345 60 60 655
Website: www.nhscareers.nhs.uk

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