Over 100 Healthwatch representatives from across the country came together to meet their MPs at an event in parliament last week.
The event, sponsored by Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, was a great opportunity for MPs to hear about the issues that matter most to people in their community, and how Healthwatch is helping to improve people's experiences of care.
Here we share Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage's speech from the night:
I would like to share with you why I think Healthwatch is so valuable in putting people at the heart of health and care in England.
Capturing, listening to and acting upon the views and experiences of individual service users, their carers and their communities, is critical if we are to fulfil this government’s vision of delivering high quality services for everyone. In this respect local Healthwatch organisations fulfil a pivotal role.
Through its work, local Healthwatch is giving citizens a voice and greater influence over the commissioning and provision of local services. By capturing people’s views and experiences to help shape and bring about the service improvements we really need, and providing high quality information about health and social care services, local Healthwatch is empowering people to have more choice and, therefore, more control, over the care they receive.
I know that overall, local authorities are recognising the value of local Healthwatch and it remains essential that they continue to invest in this vital service. For example, Birmingham Healthwatch has been investigating local take up of direct payments for social care. Their report will help inform the local authority’s strategy for increasing access to, and use of, direct payments.
In Hartlepool, following a Healthwatch investigation into the hospital discharge process, a system-wide action plan was introduced. This includes daily huddles and an integrated discharge team which has received excellent feedback from patients and staff alike.
It’s no secret that local Healthwatch organisations are powerful champions for the public voice.
As a further sign of Healthwatch’s effectiveness and reach – 85,000 members of the public were able to feed in their views on the development of the NHS Long Term Plan.
As a result, NHS England has recently announced it will be granting Healthwatch England half a million pounds to conduct local engagement to inform the next stage of the development of the Long Term Plan. The information gathered will play a huge role in informing local planning that will implement the NHS’ vision.
I am delighted to see the awarding of this grant and believe it is a real vote of confidence in the ability of local Healthwatch groups and the work you are all doing to help people’s views – and their passion for – their local health and care services to be heard by the Government.
Putting people at the heart of their care brings me neatly on to the work Healthwatch England have been doing as part of Quality Matters, the shared commitment to high-quality person centred adult social care.
What is refreshing about Quality Matters is that it was produced with everyone who really matters in social care: People who use services, their families and carers, professionals and staff, providers, commissioners, and national bodies that oversee and support adult social care.
This collaborative working has been the key to its success so far. In fact, when I met with them last year, I was delighted to hear about the success that this initiative has already had. I look forward to seeing it continue to drive up quality in care.
I would also like to briefly reflect on the Annual Report Healthwatch England published in December last year, and some of the key achievements it described.
The report describes how Healthwatch services focused on championing inclusion, raising awareness of the service, and ensuring the right resources are in place throughout 2017-18. Resources particularly proved to be tight, yet local providers are continuing to deliver.
The number of people sharing their experiences with Healthwatch has risen by 20%, the Healthwatch network also published an estimated 2,053 reports about experiences of health and care in 2017-18, which is 18% more than the previous year.
Volunteer numbers grew 7% across the year, and over five thousand individuals now give up their time to support Healthwatch’s work.
The Healthwatch network should be proud of the impressive contribution that its hard work and dedication has made in drawing attention to the views of individuals about health and social care services within every locality. This has been no mean feat.
So, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the valuable work of local Healthwatch, thanking all of you for the passion, enthusiasm and dedication to the service you provide to your local community, particularly to those vulnerable members of our society.
Healthwatch continues to deliver a crucial service in ensuring that health and social care providers remain accountable to the people they serve. Healthwatch remains a true champion and advocate for high quality, compassionate and safe care both at a local and a national level.
Thank you all for your efforts so far, I am sure that going forward you will continue to deliver this high standard of service to the public.