Further details on the establishment of local Healthwatch bodies, including a new start date and extra funding, have been set out by Health Minister Andrew Lansley.
Following feedback from local authorities and Local Involvement Networks, they now have until April 2013 to work with local health experts and volunteers to establish the local Healthwatch. The new local health bodies are set to replace Local Involvement Networks and will be the local consumer champion for patients, service users and the public.
From next year, an additional £3.2m will also be made available to local authorities to establish local Healthwatch.
In addition, more than £370,000 will also be made available until the end of the 2011/12 financial year for 75 Healthwatch pathfinders, who are pioneering and testing out plans ahead of the full establishment of local Healthwatch across the country.
This money can be used in any part of their development, including spreading best practice, engaging more in the community, and financially supporting volunteers.
Andrew Lansley said:
‘Local Healthwatch is a vital part of our plans to give people a stronger voice and drive improvements in health and social care services across the NHS.
‘Today’s announcement is a further sign of our commitment to support the dedicated staff and volunteers who are driving this forward. It gives them the support necessary to carry out their important work in shaping the future of local healthcare.’
Becky Shaw, Chief Executive of East Sussex County Council and a member of the Healthwatch Programme Board, said:
‘Ensuring the voices of patients and the public are heard in the health and social system is a vital ingredient for future success. It is a complex task and extra resources to support councils in this task at a local level are very welcome.’
The new date for establishing Local Healthwatch supports the need to align this closer to the establishment of other new bodies such as the health and wellbeing boards. The extended deadline will also support preparations for implementation and enable Healthwatch England – which will be established in October 2012 – to provide the leadership and support to local Healthwatch organisations.
See letter from David Behan, Director General for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, on the launch and funding arrangements for local Healthwatch and Healthwatch pathfinders.
See press release.