Consumer champion to explore public’s role in driving change in Health and Care

Healthwatch England launches its 12 week consultation to help shape our strategy for the next two years.

Healthwatch England is today launching a 12 week strategy consultation with patients, care users and their families.

This national conversation will shape our strategy over the next two years and create a rights based framework that has been shaped by the public and so help to put people at the heart of health and care.

In relation to the NHS, there are already some legal rights which are enshrined in the NHS constitution, there is nothing similar in care. Our consumer rights will describe what people expect from the services they need and we will use them to challenge services to do more to meet public expectations.

Special attention will be given to speaking to those groups that are rarely heard, particularly children and young people and those with mental health conditions, to ensure that the rights work for a broad range of consumers, particularly those with the most complex needs.

These special feedback sessions will form part of a nationwide series of events and an extensive outreach programme to capture thoughts and feelings from people from all over the county.  

Recent research by Healthwatch revealed that as a nation we see ourselves as ‘grateful patients’, broadly satisfied with the health and care services we receive even when they fail to meet our most basic expectations.

In October we published a framework of eight consumer rights to help us all get the safe, dignified and high quality care we deserve. Healthwatch England will be using its rights framework to challenge the system to become more consumer focused.

A shocking 1 in 3 of the 2,000 health and care users we spoke to said they had personally experienced or knew someone who had experienced some form of abuse, neglect or malpractice whilst being cared for.

More than half of those affected by poor care in the last three years didn’t report it because they didn’t trust the system to do anything as a result.

Whilst researching these rights, we identified a desire amongst patients and care users to not just talk about rights but also responsibilities, asking questions about how we can tackle serious issues such as:

  • missed appointments for health and care services
  • people visiting A&E for non-emergency care because they either don’t want to wait or are frustrated at being unable to make an appointment with their GP
  • to treat health and care staff with respect.

This consultation provides those who actually use services with an opportunity to comment at an early stage in the development of a more consumer focused health and care service and help us set where the boundary sits between rights and responsibilities.

Anna Bradley, Chair of Healthwatch England, said:

“Setting out the rights was just the first step, what we are doing now is talking to people about their experiences of these rights in action and the responsibilities they think go with them.

“We are particularly keen to seek out the views of those groups that are rarely heard, particularly children and those with mental health conditions, to ensure we are giving a voice to the people who need the most help speaking up.

“We will be working with the network of local Healthwatch to collect feedback from all over the country to ensure local experience is reflected in the way decisions are taken about our rights and responsibilities, and how we can all play a part in creating a consumer focused national health and care service that is focused on what we need.”

After the consultation we will create a list of responsibilities that reflects our rights framework. Early findings will be published on World Consumer Rights Day on 15 March next year.