Health and Social Care (Re-Committed) Bill

Memorandum submitted by the National Association of Links’ Members (HSR 25)

Making Healthwatch Work

Patient and Public Involvement in Health and Social Care

KEY POINTS

· Healthwatch must be independent if it is to be an effective body representing the public interest in the NHS and social care.

· Government plans for Healthwatch create a major conflict of interest. Healthwatch cannot be accountable to and funded by local authorities – the bodies which commission and provide the services that Healthwatch monitors and scrutinises.

· Funding must be ‘protected’ if the intentions of the Bill in respect of Healthwatch are to be realised. To do otherwise would lead to the misuse of public funds intended to enhance the representation of the public in the health and social care system.

· Local HealthWatch must be seen by patients and the public and particularly by users of social care services, as independent and serving their needs. If Healthwatch is made accountable to the local authority the public will have no confidence that it will stand up for them when things go wrong

· We must learn the lessons from Mid-Staffordshire Foundation Trust and the numerous care homes which have become places of oppression and agony for the residents. Healthwatch can’t be both the champion of the public and the poodle of the local authority.

HealthWatch offers the opportunity to build a highly effective system for the involvement of patients and the public in health and social care. But, unless the Bill is amended HealthWatch will fail to meet the vision of an informed consumer champion for health and social care

1) Independence and accountability

1.1 Healthwatch must be independent if it is to be an effective body representing the public interest in the NHS and social care.

1.2 A body that is commissioned, funded and performance managed by a Local Authority will perceived to be subject to influence, direct or indirect, from the officers, Councillors and be unable to make unbiased reports and interventions.

1.3 Local HealthWatch must be seen by patients and the public and particularly by users of social care servic