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Your spotlight on health and social care services


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People as partners

Healthwatch England Annual Report 2014/15

When we started work, we asked the public what they want from health and care services. 

Find out what we have been doing to make sure people’s views are heard.

Message from our Chair

The last year has shown what's possible when services engage people as equal partners in improving care. This needs to happen more if health reforms are to be successful says Anna Bradley.

Our annual report to Parliament sends a clear message - that understanding and responding to people’s experiences of care is essential to developing better services.

The public are ready to help

In the past year, the Healthwatch network has engaged over 300,000 people. This is not only a testament to the hard work of local volunteers and staff but also to the public’s desire to help improve NHS and social care services.

With growing demand for care, the public clearly recognises the strain on services such as GPs. In fact, eight in ten people say they are interested in sharing their ideas for how their local practice can be changed to better suit their needs.

People need to be given a chance to share their experiences in ways that have an impact. According to a survey we commissioned, less than a third of people say they have been given the opportunity to share their views of healthcare services.

Our third annual report shows what is possible when people are engaged as partners in making sure that services suit their needs.

Time to do more

People understand the challenges that the NHS and social care services face and stand ready to do their bit. They want to contribute by managing their own wellbeing more and helping to build better services for their community.

However, commissioners and providers of services need to do more to capitalise on the public’s desire.

Individuals need to be treated as equal partners in determining their own care, as well as the decisions that will be taken about future services. People also have to be given the opportunity to share their views.

In the year to come we will do all we can to encourage a stronger partnership between people and services, to help make sure that tomorrow’s health and care services meet the needs of those who use them.

Read in full

The year at a glance

Speach bubbles

Our work was informed by the 300,000 experiences gathered this year by the 800 staff and 5,400 volunteers who make up local Healthwatch.




We shared findings from 11,000 conversations local Healthwatch had with people about their experiences of primary care services.





We collated 3,230 stories about people's experiences of leaving hospitals and mental health settings for our special inquiry.

We ran our second annual conference attended by 380 people from across the Healthwatch network.




Healthwatch England logo

24% of people are now aware of Healthwatch.



People Thanks to local Healthwatch we brought the views of more than 2,000 people to the national Children and Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce.

People expect a safe and good quality service

When we heard from local Healthwatch that people were leaving hospitals and mental health settings feeling badly prepared, we investigated further.

Safe, quality service

We focused on older people, those with experience of homelessness and individuals with mental health conditions. Over 3,000 people shared their experience.

What we found

Our findings confirm that people want a safe, dignified and good quality service. But this is not being delivered to all. We found that people want to be involved in making sure change happens and for their experiences to inform improvements to services.

Five core reasons people feel their departure from care was not handled properly:

1. Delays and a lack of co-ordination between different services
2. Feeling left without the services and support after discharge
3. Feeling stigmatised, discriminated against and not treated with appropriate respect
4. Not involved in decisions about care or given the information needed
5. Full range of needs not considered

Across all groups, we found that people expect some simple things from the discharge process

  • To be treated with dignity, compassion and respect
  • For their needs and circumstances to be considered as a whole - not just their presenting symptoms
  • To be involved in decisions about their treatment and discharge
  • To move smoothly from hospital to onward support available in the community
  • To know where they could go for help once discharged

What next?

This issue is not new and we know that there are people and organisations across the country already working to try and improve discharge on a local level. However, these initiatives are not sufficiently widespread to resolve the problems that exist at a national level. We will work with the Department of Health to encourage agencies to work together to tackle this long-standing problem.

Read more

People expect to be listened to

People should feel able to complain if they are unhappy with a service, without fear of repercussions, and know that something will be done to improve things.

The health and social care sector has recognised the need to improve the complaints process, with the Government bringing a number of agencies together to address it.

We wanted to use our position to bring people’s experiences of the complaints system to light and to inform recommendations for what needs to change.

In 2014, along with local Healthwatch, we investigated people's experiences of the complaints system.

What we found

We heard that people want their views and experiences to inform improvements to services so that other people will receive better care in the future. We heard about ways in which the complaints process is not working, and what people want to be done differently.

"There has been no outcome to my complaint; simply more distress inconvenience, injury and injustice."

What we did

Since publishing Suffering in Silence, we have been working at a national and local level to bring people's experiences to light and to contribute to change.

National progress

What next?

Our work has helped shape the ongoing debate about how to secure a complaints system which truly works for people.

We will continue to encourage health and social care leaders to enable the public to play their part in developing a better complaints system. We will also support local Healthwatch that provide advocacy services to deliver to a quality standard and promote good standards across the advocacy sector.

Read more

People expect to have access to services

We worked to make over 11,000 people's views on accessing GP, dentistry and other primary care services heard at a national level.

What we found

People who have access to services express high levels of patient satisfaction. But local Healthwatch often hear that many people face trouble accessing care in the first place. We reviewed evidence from across England and found that people experience ten common problems.

  1. People struggle to access primary care services
  2. People struggle to register with a GP or dentist
  3. People can't get a GP appointment so go to A&E instead
  4. People struggle to communicate with their doctor because of poor translation services
  5. People cannot get appointments with their preferred GP
  6. People don't know which healthcare service to use
  7. People feel rushed in their appointments and need more time
  8. People don't know how to complain about their care
  9. People don't think staff are as compassionate as they should be
  10. People need more information to make the right choices about their care

What we did

We published a report setting out the main barriers to accessing primary care services and areas for action. We also shared this with a number of key stakeholders, including the NHS England Board, the Royal College of General Practitioners, the Treasury, the National Audit Office and the British Medical Association.

What next?

We will speak to more people across the country to develop a better understanding of what specific groups of patients want to change about existing services to improve access.

We will also work to understand what the public wants from care in the long term and share what we hear with those developing the services of tomorrow.

Read more

People expect to be involved in decisions that affect them

This year, we worked to ensure that people's voices were heard about the use of their data.

When the Care.data programme was first announced, a quarter of local Healthwatch raised concerns about the way it was being explained to the public. Following feedback shared by us and other partners, the programme was paused.

What we found

From our own research, we know that while many adults would be happy to donate their personal health data to help research, they want it to be anonymous. People want to be confident about how their personal information will be recorded and used.

What we did

When we brought people's concerns to the Care.data programme they were listened to, and both Healthwatch England and local Healthwatch have continued to take the opportunity to share people's views as the programme has developed.

We have developed a set of principles for collecting and sharing personal health and care data, to help inform the programme. These are based on what we have heard from people about what they need to know to be confident about the collection and use of their data.

What next?

We will continue to monitor the progress of this issue to help people make an informed decision about whether to opt out of sharing their data.

We will also support local Healthwatch in the Care.data programme 'pathfinder' areas to test the clarity of communications with patients.

Read more

A stronger local voice

We have provided the network with a range of support, training and guidance this year, all designed to enable them to deliver the best possible service for the public.


We have helped connect local Healthwatch with those leading major changes to the way that services are run, and made sure that they have a seat at the table when decisions are being made so that people's voices are represented.


We provide guidance for local Healthwatch on how to lead effective organisations. This year, that has focused particularly on assisting them with their relationships - both with external stakeholders and within their own organisations.



Learning and sharing opportunities

We run a number of networking and training events to enable local Healthwatch to learn new skills, connect with one another and raise awareness of the issues of greatest importance to local people.

Tools and resources

We listen to what the networks needs and develop tools and resources to support their work.

Driving future change

Read how we will be driving change in 2015/16 by focusing on four key areas.

Using people's experiences, we will advise decision makers about how to better design services that meet people's expectations.

1. We will amplify people's voices to help improve current health and social care.

It is our job to give a voice to people who may not otherwise be heard so that they get the health and social care they deserve. This will involve pursuing the changes needed to the discharge process, making sure marginalized groups are listened to and exploring other concerns that people raise with local Healthwatch.

2. We will work to inform the future design of services so that they are shaped by the people who use them.

This will involve listening to people across the country about what they think of their local primary care services to identify the changes needed. We will make people's voices heard regarding reforms to health and social care service delivery.

With local Healthwatch providing the 'eyes and ears' on the ground, we will act as a critical friend, calling for services to be designed based on people's needs.

3. We will continue to develop the effectiveness of the Healthwatch network.

As the national body, we will continue to support local Healthwatch to be strong, sustainable organisations, providing a high quality service to the public.

4. We will ensure that we are an effective, efficient organisation and a well-governed public body.

As we move into our third year, we will start developing our next strategy for 2016-21, setting out what we will focus on in the years ahead to make the greatest difference to people.

Read more