Community Leaders: Working with Healthwatch

In 2010 The UK Coalition Government White paper  ‘Equity and Excellence:Liberating the NHS’  set out a vision, strategy and proposals for the NHS. It describes a system where:

  • Patients are at the heart of everything the NHS does.
  • Healthcare outcomes in England are among the best in the world.
  • Clinicians are empowered to deliver results.

The Health & Social Care Act 2012 established NHS England (NHS Commissioning Board) and among many other things created Healthwatch to champion patients and service users voice at national and local levels. 

What is Healthwatch?

  • Consumer champion for health and social care.
  • Healthwatch England + network of 152 local Healthwatches
  • Local Healthwatch = local community
  • Influencing and challenging health and social care service providers

Four charities (CSV, Regional Voices, National Voices and NAVCA) joined forces to raise awareness amongst local people, community groups and volunteers about how they can get involved in Healthwatch. Healthwatch England - the overarching body for local Healthwatch working with a network of 152 local Healthwatches.

The aim is to ensure that the voices of consumers and those who use services reach the ears of the decision makers. Local Healthwatch made up of members of the local community who put themselves forward to represent their community.

Healthwatch Policy

  • Strengthening the voice of patients, users of services and the public
  • Local Healthwatch organisations is the local consumer champion
  • Healthwatch England is the national consumer champion
  • Local authorities have the duty to provide a local Healthwatch in their area.
  • Covering health and social care for everyone.
  • From influence to decision-making with a seat on the statutory health and wellbeing board
  • Understanding and presenting community views, helping individuals.
  • Healthwatch England influence at the national level, e.g Monitor, NHS Commissioning Board, Care Quality Commision.

Healthwatch England

  • Role to provide leadership and support to local Healthwatch.
  • Acting when there has been a poor outcome for patients or service users.
  • Advice to national system including Secretary of State, and to local authorities.
  • Local voice – national influence.

Local Healthwatch Organisations

Collectively: Help to shape planning and delivery of health and social care services, including public health. Have a seat on Local Authority health and wellbeing boards to influence commissioning. Monitor and scrutinise local services to bring about improvements.

For Individuals: Information about local health and care services. Help people to access and make choices about care. Signpost advocacy for individuals making complaints about healthcare.

Healthwatch Volunteer Roles

  • Raising the profile of Healthwatch with the public.
  • Getting involved in Healthwatch- understanding what the voluntary and community sector in your local area already offers and making use of it as well as statutory partners.
  • Championing the voice of patients and service users - role of volunteers is key to this.
  • Connecting with hard-to-reach groups- local Healthwatch must seek to be representative of its local area; collaboration with existing Voluntary & Community  Sector organisations

How YOU Can Get Involved

  • Volunteer to represent your local community
  • Put LGB needs on the agenda
  • Be a Healthwatch representative for your area!

We know that lesbian, gay and bisexual people experience a range of health inequalities compared to the general population, and are likely to have poorer experiences of accessing health and social care services. But there is little knowledge about this among service commissioners and providers.

We need empowered, knowledgeable LGB people to sit on their local Healthwatch and bring LGB needs to the agenda.

Further Information

The Healthwatch Communities Involved website has information aimed at supporting people to have a greater role in Healthwatch. Find out more at: healthwatch-ci.co.uk

CSV- Community Service Volunteers, the UK Volunteering and Learning charity. www.csv.org.uk

Regional Voices - Champions the work of voluntary and community organisations. www.regionalvoices.org

National Voices - National coalition of health and social care charities in England www.nationalvoices.org.uk

NAVCA - National Association for Voluntary and Community Action is the national voice of local support and development organisations in England.www.navca.org.uk