As of last month, service users have a national statutory champion for their interests in the health and social care system in the shape of Healthwatch England. Set up by the Health and Social Care Act 2012, its remit is to fight service users’ corner in the corridors of power while also supporting a network of local Healthwatch groups to hold services to account in their areas.
Its governing committee includes people with experience of disability campaigning, charity leadership and local government. At its helm is Anna Bradley, whose background combines consumer rights work – she formerly worked for Which? and was chief executive of the National Consumer Council – with regulation, past roles including being chair of the General Optical Council.
She says her expectations for Healthwatch England are high, particularly in terms of how far it will be listened to by the health and social care establishment. She points to statutory provisions obliging councils, government, the NHS Commissioning Board and the Care Quality Commission to respond in writing to its advice.
The messages that Healthwatch England will be relaying, through its annual report to Parliament and other reports on specific issues, will be based on its analysis of service users’ experience of health and social care services. This will be drawn from two sources: local Healthwatch groups, which will be up and running by April 2013, replacing local involvement networks (Links), and existing organisations that perform similar scrutiny, such as charities for specific client groups.
“Local Healthwatch groups will collect and collate evidence from the community and the wider public to support them in their role in advising commissioners and providers. We will draw heavily on that information at a national level and will be spotting themes and the significant trends and developments we will want to raise at a national level.”
This will be the job of the analysts within Healthwatch England’s staff of about 30 people. Bradley says that Healthwatch’s reports will be strongly evidence based and it will focus on a few priorities, to avoid spreading itself too thinly. In determining priorities, Bradley says the committee will focus on the needs of the most vulnerable, such as people with dementia or others who lack mental capacity to make decisions about their care.
Source: Community Care
8th November 2012