Each year we publish State of Support, which sets out the funding your local Healthwatch has received and what it means for people in your area.
What does your Healthwatch do?
If you live in England, your local authority has a legal duty to commission a local Healthwatch service for your community.
Healthwatch have legal powers to find out what people want from health and social care, and share these views with those running services to help make them better. They also give information and advice to people about local services.
With health and social care services under pressure and facing significant change, our work giving communities a strong and independent voice has never been more important.
How much funding have local Healthwatch received?
The Government provides funding to councils so that they can commission a local Healthwatch service. We publish an annual update of how much money local Healthwatch are receiving from their local authority.
For 2018/19, the Healthwatch network has received £26,064,086, which is 4.3% lower compared to the previous financial year.
This means that total annual funding has fallen by 35.3% since 2013, when the Healthwatch network was established.
The reported funding reductions in this financial year are concentrated to a third (56) of local Healthwatch services. Healthwatch in these areas are facing an average cut of 10.4%.
However, in 18 areas local Healthwatch services report that their funding has fallen by more than the average, with some seeing budgets reduced by nearly half.
What's the impact on local Healthwatch?
We looked at how funding reductions have affected local Healthwatch over the last five years. Where Healthwatch have experienced reductions above the average, our research indicates that this appears to be having an impact on their work.
For example, some Healthwatch are gathering the experiences and views of fewer people, while others have reduced capacity to turn the stories they gather into insight which local services need.
Continued reductions to funding are also having a significant impact on local Healthwatch staffing. Local Healthwatch report the number of full time equivalent posts have fallen by 22% over the last two years.
Despite this, the Healthwatch network as a whole are supporting more people to have their say about health and care, and are doing more than ever to ensure these views result in positive changes to services.
However, we are concerned that cuts in specific areas could put the Healthwatch service at risk, denying local communities an independent champion to raise their concerns.
How we look to reduce impacts of cuts
We're addressing this issue in three ways:
- Support for commissioners: We're advising local authorities on how to commission an effective local Healthwatch service.
- Monitoring quality and impact: We're taking steps to help communities understand what a good quality Healthwatch service should look like and what they are achieving.
- Use of statutory powers: In cases where a local Healthwatch believes that a proposed budget reduction may lead to it being unable to fulfil its statutory functions adequately, we are working with local councils to resolve the issue, and if necessary, using our statutory powers.