I first made contact with POhWER over ten years ago, following an NHS complaint that I needed support with. I’d never made an NHS complaint before and I didn’t know where to start. I did everything that I wasn’t meant to do, including approaching the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) without even submitting my complaint to the NHS organisation in question. I was given some information about POhWER and after making contact with them, I was allocated to an advocate. I’d written my own letter of complaint, but I needed some support and guidance about the complaints process itself and what to expect going forward. My advocate supported me to review my letter and talked to me about what my options were. Following the submission of my NHS complaint, POhWER also supported me to meet with the NHS organisation, so that I could discuss my concerns in person. My advocate reassured me along the way and empowered me to make sure that my voice was heard. Looking back, the prospect of meeting with clinical staff was an extremely daunting prospect for me, but I was given the opportunity to discuss my experience within a formal setting, with the support and reassurance from my advocate at POhWER.

Following on from my NHS complaint and making contact with POhWER as a client, I was always very interested in the work that they did, the support that they offered and the impact that this had on me. When I saw POhWER advertise a role for an Independent Health Complaints Advocate, I decided to apply for the position, as I had developed my own experience of working in the NHS, as well as being a former client. I successfully secured a role as an Independent Health Complaints Advocate two years ago and it’s been quite a journey that I’ve been on. I now support other individuals who need guidance in order to highlight their concerns, I also share information about the complaints process in order for people to pursue their complaints and I support individuals in meetings just like the one that I attended many years ago. I am not only able to use my previous NHS experience within my day to day work, but I am also able to relate to the individuals that I support, from my own personal experience. Working for POhWER has given me the opportunity to empower individuals to ensure that their voices are heard, to engage with local communities, to work with individuals to ensure that they are involved with their concerns and I am able to make a positive difference to the individuals that I support.

In addition to my journey from client to advocate, I am now in a position where I am able to work alongside my previous advocate Darren, who supported me many years ago. Darren has worked with POhWER for many years and he continues to support clients in a positive way, just like the support that he provided to me as a client. The support that POhWER have given me has now enabled me to support other individuals, to make a positive impact within the local community. Not only do POhWER offer support to individuals within the community, there are also many ways that you can connect and work with POhWER within volunteer roles, by becoming a member or even as a paid member of staff.

Nicola