Health and social care targets only useful if people’s voices are heard

In our annual report to parliament, we call on services to listen to what matters most to people when it comes to their care – and on the public to keep speaking up.
Picture of the front of our report titled

More people are speaking up about support

Healthwatch heard from over 400,000 people during the last year about what they think of health and social care. In our annual report to Parliament - What matters most, our Chair, Sir Robert Francis, asks services to look beyond their performance statistics and explore people’s real day-to-day experiences, to help make care better.

The thousands of stories which people shared with us during the last 12 months show a real mix of views. Despite pressures, some people continue to receive outstanding care, much of which, they say, is down to the dedication shown by the staff who keep things running.

However, many others struggle to get the support they need, with some services failing to deliver the basics. For example, Healthwatch spoke to care home residents who couldn’t see an NHS dentist, and patients who’d left hospital without the information they needed, meaning they’d end up having to go back in.

Listening to people helps spot gaps in care

To help address the issues people raised, and make services work better, care needs to be looked at as a whole. When performance targets are looked at in isolation – and people’s real-life experiences aren’t considered – it makes it impossible for services to spot the gaps and see where improvements are really needed.

With the NHS Long Term Plan and the Government’s Social Care Green Paper both imminent, listening to people and using their insight to inform decisions and track performance needs to become part of the DNA of health and care in England.

We’re playing our part. Since 2014 we have built the health and social care sector’s single biggest source of user insight, gathering more than 1.4 million experiences and views. We have also set a goal to increase this further and reach a million people a year by 2023.

Encouragingly, those working in health and social care are using our insight more than ever before, drawing on our evidence and calling on our expertise to engage with communities up and down the country.

The Government’s commitment to invest billions more in the NHS provides a rare opportunity to invest for the long-term in building a culture where staff at all levels work in equal partnership with communities to shape the way services run.

Find out more

Read more about our work in our annual report for 2017-18, What Matters Most.

Download the report

Chair of Healthwatch England, Sir Robert Francis, said:

“The Government’s investment of extra billions in our health service gives us a great opportunity to think about how that money should be spent, and how we can track the impact of any changes to ensure they deliver the help people want and need.

“To do this, we want to see people’s experiences of care become part of the very DNA of the decision-making processes throughout the NHS and social care sector.

“I have seen first-hand how a purely target driven culture within the NHS can actually be bad for people’s health, both patients and staff. To focus exclusively on performance measures can leave services with a false belief they are succeeding without any real idea whether people’s care and support needs are being met or where things might need to change.  

“Listening to people and learning from their stories is the best way to get the balance right, and to ensure services have the evidence they need to shape care around the real-life needs of those they serve.

“The outstanding efforts of our local Healthwatch teams, supported by more than 5,000 volunteers, have created an evidence base of people’s experiences that is simply unparalleled. What’s more, we can see this insight being used to shape some of the biggest debates in health and care.

“For me, this is just the beginning. Over the next five years, we are looking to create a movement that puts people at the very heart of health and social care. To do this we need people to keep coming forward, keep sharing and help services hear what really matters to them.”

Talk to your local Healthwatch

You can help make health and care services better by sharing your experiences and ideas. Talk to your local Healthwatch.

Find your nearest Healthwatch