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UK government launches Healthwatch England to champion patient voices

Will support public opinion in health and social care

Healthwatch England

The UK government has launched a new body to give patients and the general public a voice in the way health and social care services are run in the country.

Launched by the Department of Health, Healthwatch England is part of a series of wholesale changes to the way the NHS is run in England, as begun by the Health and Social Care Act, and will serve as a “national, statutory consumer champion”.

Chaired by Anna Bradley, a former chief executive of the National Consumer Council and chair of the General Optical Council, Healthwatch England will use “real experiences to highlight national issues and trends and raise these at the highest levels”.

It will also oversee the work of local Healthwatch organsiations, which are due to cover every local authority in England. These local services will launch in April 2013, and will look at the issues the need to be addressed in specific geographical areas.

Information provided by local Healthwatch services will also be analysed by Healthwatch England to identify key issues and trends, with the ultimate aim to make sure public opinion on health and social care is heard by the Secretary of State for Health, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the NHS Commissioning Board, Monitor and every local authority in England.

Specific methods of gathering such opinions include entering and viewing services directly and holding a seat on the local health and wellbeing board. Charities will also be consulted to gain a patient perspective.

Anna Bradley explains the role of Healthwatch England (if video doesn't work, watch it on YouTube)

Healthwatch England said: “We will not just rely on what has gone before – we want to help develop new ways of engaging and informing people, especially those who sometimes struggle to be heard.

“We will always root our work in evidence and not anecdote."

Currently joining Bradley will on the organisation's committee are seven additional members, with the possibility of a further five joining.

Existing members include John Carvel, former social affairs editor at the Guardian newspaper, and former chair of the Disability Committee of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Alun Davies.

“We will actively seek views from all sections of the community to build a national picture of what matter most to local people and make sure their views and experiences are really listened to, analysed and acted upon,” said Bradley.

“Better health and social care services has to be the result.”

The launch follows confirmation that the remit for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) will be expanded to include social care.

Alongside its current healthcare responsibilities, NICE will now publish quality standards in areas of social care, such as autism and child maltreatment.

3rd October 2012

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