Local Healthwatch – the policy explained

To help explain recent amendments to the Health and Social Care Bill about local Healthwatch, the Department of Health has published a document to clarify and restate the Government’s vision for local Healthwatch.

The document, which also describes the key policy ambitions for Healthwatch, is aimed at all those with an interest in local Healthwatch organisations across the NHS and social care, including local authorities, local involvement networks, emerging health and wellbeing boards and the voluntary and community sectors.

‘Local Healthwatch: A strong voice for people – the policy explained’ places the role of local Healthwatch within the overall context of the White Paper, and sets out functions, responsibilities, roles and relationships within the modernised health and care system.

The intention is for Healthwatch England to be established in October 2012 and for local Healthwatch organisations to start in April 2013.

Read Local Healthwatch: A strong voice for people – the policy explained

Following on from this document, David Behan, DH Director General for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, has written to local authority chief executives to clarify their statutory duty to commission effective and efficient local Healthwatch organisations.

Read David Behan’s letter

Find out more about the Health and Social Care Bill amendments about local Healthwatch that were tabled on 1 March.

In Health and wellbeing boards, Healthwatch, News, Pathfinder Learning Network, Social care | Tagged

5 Responses to Local Healthwatch – the policy explained

  1. Rod Whiteley says:

    Thank you for publishing this document. The position badly needed to be clarified and restated.

    The document is not, however, brilliantly well written. For example, in the section on key policy ambitions most of the text describes implementation details, the ambitions remaining obscure. A case in point is the gathering of people’s views, which is already performed by many agencies in many ways, with no obvious policy ambition that requires local Healthwatch to gather views too. And then, in the section on changes to the current system, the Government’s localism agenda crops up, which is surely a key policy ambition. It might even explain why local Healthwatch must gather views.

    It is disappointing to see signposting mentioned, with its attendant risk that the public will be signposted round in circles (as I have myself been on occasion, by PALS). The Bill is quite clear that local Healthwatch is to provide information and advice, and it seems to me that the document muddies this rather than clarifying it.

    The worst case will be that a local Healthwatch does nothing but duplicate the work of, and signpost to, other local and national bodies. Nothing in the section on roles, responsibilities and functions gives assurance that some local authorities will not allow this to happen.

    While the document is welcome, I think some suspension of disbelief is still required until secondary legislation and Healthwatch England’s promised leadership fill the gaps.

  2. Web editor@DH says:

    Thanks for your comments. The Healthwatch team is keen to get back to you with a full response and will respond by the end of this week.

  3. Duncan J Cameron says:

    I would be happy to comment once the article is read.

  4. Frances Hasler says:


    You raise a lot of points, I will try briefly to respond to them:
    • The ambition is for local Healthwatch to help local people to get the best out of local health and care services, through shaping those services around local needs and experience; and enabling people to find and use the services they need.
    • Local Healthwatch will collaborate with other local agencies to make the best use of views, wherever those views are initially gathered. We envisage a regular dialogue between Healthwatch and the local authority, good communication between the people responsible for involvement in NHS bodies and the local Healthwatch and a strong, collaborative relationship between local Healthwatch and the local voluntary and community sector, so that all concerned are making the best use of local resources.
    • The requirement to gather views is not new – it is one of the points of continuity between Healthwatch and LINks.
    • We are encouraging local areas to start planning early for how they will provide information. The way this works in each place will depend on existing local resources. Clearly, it is not in the interests of local people or of local authorities to commission a service that duplicates others, and we envisage that local authorities will want Healthwatch to complement what is already available locally. In one area this might mean tailoring information to people who find it particularly difficult to find and use services. In another, it might mean signposting people to an existing specialist information provider.
    • Know-how on providing information will draw on resources produced through pathfinder projects. We are working with experienced providers (for example Citizens Advice and some current PALS staff) to provide pointers for local Healthwatch, and to develop systems to help them be effective information providers.
    • Healthwatch England will start six months earlier than local Healthwatch, so it will be able to support the local organisations in setting up good local systems.

    Frances Hasler
    Healthwatch team
    Department of Health

  5. Carole Hawkins says:

    This appears to be one of the 7 layers of the privatised health service. It will not create a true picture of the reality of the privatisation as the questions one is able to ask patients is severly limited. How much is this grandiose plan going to cost and can one presume that it will come out of existing monies thereby depriving patients yet again?