Patient advocacy is an essential aspect of healthcare.

Ensuring adequate quality of care across settings, advocacy centres around wellbeing, rights, and access to treatment. Through community incentives and in the protection of vulnerable patients, NHS patient advocates consist of organisations, small groups, or individuals.

Advocacy is essential for those who find it difficult or are physically unable to speak up for their own health. If you’re looking after a poorly loved one or your own health is deteriorating, it’s important to know about it.

Defining patient advocacy in practicality

The fundamental goal of patient advocacy is for individuals to play a part in shaping their healthcare experience. From understanding each diagnosis to exploring different treatment options, including their associated benefits and drawbacks, advocates work to ensure that patients understand the nature of the care offered to them.

Crucially, it revolves around effective communication between patients, their families, and medical professionals. Shared decision-making paves the way for a patient-first approach to healthcare. If you’re a nurse or private care provider, it’s vital to know how to advocate for your patients.

Why is self-advocacy so important?

When patients are empowered to advocate for their own health, wider patient outcomes improve.

Doctors play an important role in deciding the most appropriate care and drug administration on a case-by-case basis. However, that short appointment is often the only window of time a patient spends getting to grips with their condition.

When individuals feel dissatisfied with their treatment, the health service risks negative feedback and formal enquiries. In some cases, patients might make a medical negligence claim against a healthcare provider after failing to receive appropriate or correct treatment. Advocacy, and knowing that every voice matters, is the first step towards seeking compensation when things go wrong.

How is patient advocacy changing?

  • Patient-engagement roles

Many patients need ongoing support after using healthcare services. As junior doctors and student nurses bring new perspectives to the sector, systematic and progressive changes are becoming evident in hospitals. Increasingly, notions for increased patient involvement – and staff to lead them – are brought forward by trade organisations.

  • New modes of working with patients

Self-advocacy means that more people can assert their needs, ask questions, and actively participate in decision-making while receiving treatment. Active patient engagement is essential in the current landscape, which helps care providers to evaluate the effectiveness of their service. Digitised services, remote appointments and new roles transform advocacy.

  • Rise of patient-driven data       

In some cases, patient advocacy stems from frustration or delays. If a patient feels misunderstood, ignored, or helpless in relation to their health, it can stem from complaints. Everyone has the right to give feedback to the NHS, and this in turn provides valuable statistical data.


For individual patients, advocacy starts at home. However, when one voice turns into several, it’s possible for outcomes to improve on a local, regional or even national scale. With more patients getting involved in activism than ever before, the advocacy landscape has transformed.

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