First fully qualified health advocates graduate at The King's Fund celebration

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The first group of people with a certificate of higher education in advocacy graduated today from the University of East London at a ceremony held at The King's Fund.

At the same event, the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Organisations (CEMVO) announced that its Health Advocacy Network for London already had 151 members from across the capital.

Both initiatives are key components of The King's Fund grant programme to support health advocacy amongst black and minority ethnic communities in the capital. The university course aims to provide health advocates with the expertise they need to help people to use health services properly. The network was developed to bring advocates together to share their experiences and campaign for better support for their work from the NHS.

Among the 14 students receiving their certificates today was Karen Speller, an advocate for people with learning disabilities in Barking and Dagenham. She said:

'My work for Mencap is about empowering people to help themselves. The job of an advocate is to build up the knowledge and confidence of people who find public services hard to use. This can help to improve their health considerably.'

Presenting the certificates, The King's Fund chief executive Rabbi Julia Neuberger said:

'Advocates don't only help individual patients. They also assist clinical staff to provide more appropriate services to people who would otherwise miss out on the care they need.

'With patient-centred care the new mantra in the NHS, advocacy is an important way of ensuring people from disadvantaged groups benefit equally. I hope that the network and the university course will bring health advocacy the recognition and the support that it deserves.'

Notes to editors

Celebrating Advocacy will be held at the King's Fund, 11-13 Cavendish Square, London W1 on Monday, 9 September 2002 from 9.30am to 4.00pm.

The King's Fund grant for health advocacy has, to date, included three main projects:

1. The creation of a network of health advocates in London, managed by CEMVO;

2. The development of a new certificate of higher education, provided by the University of East London;

3. The development and testing of a set of standards for health advocacy services in the NHS.

For more information about the King's Fund health advocacy grant please call Andrew Bell on 020 7307 2585 or 07831 554931.