Local patient voice short changed by 10 million pounds

Our analysis shows that around a quarter of the £43.5 million made available by the Department of Health to fund local Healthwatch has failed to materialise in local Healthwatch accounts.

Collectively the 148 local Healthwatch organisations have received £10 million less than was outlined in the budget by the Health Secretary, before the network has even got off the ground.

If local Healthwatch are to succeed in giving people a stronger voice in health and care, what they need is a commitment from central and local government to invest in the network and multi-year settlements to provide consistency for long-term planning.

We are therefore calling for those involved to provide clarity about where the money has gone and ensure the network is able to achieve what it was set up to do - to give local people a strong voice and help put patients at the heart of the health and social care sector.

Anna Bradley, Chair of Healthwatch England, said:

"This discovery is hugely disappointing. Less than 4p out of every £10,000 spent on health and social care was allocated to champion the cause of consumers in the first place, and even this tiny amount is failing to reach those charged with speaking out on behalf of their local communities.

"The tragedies of Mid-Staffs, Morecambe Bay and Winterbourne View all highlight what happens when the system fails to listen. As a result, there is an even greater need for Healthwatch to speak up for consumers and users and challenge those who provide services to listen and respond.

"Local Healthwatch are starting to make a real difference with the money they have, but for this emerging network to succeed as intended, it is vital they receive the resources they need to do a decent job for the communities they serve."

"We understand the pressure on public finances, but we are also deeply concerned that this short-changing of local people will seriously damage the Healthwatch network at birth."