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Healthwatch Takes Off – The HWE National Conference

Healthwatch is starting to make a difference, as the new consumer champion for health and social care. I attended Healthwatch England’s two day annual conference last week, and it was striking how much Healthwatch locally is not just listening to people but is taking the message back to commissioners and providers and getting change happening.

They’re doing work on all sectors of health and social care – GPs, hospitals, mental health, adults and children’s social care. They are making an impact on a range of conditions and issues – communications skills training for doctors, meals in care homes, ambulance response times, dementia, the needs of the Polish community, the requirements of young carers, redesigning mental health services and reducing waiting times for older people’s care assessments. This is in addition to the more publicised issues like, delays at A&E and trying to improve the multiple and complex complaints systems in health and social care. Healthwatches are using all manner of means to listen to people. They have a variety of ways of prioritising their time. And they are having an impact through personal contact, writing reports, working in partnership and playing an active role on Health and Wellbeing Boards.

That doesn’t mean everything’s perfect. There are funding issues, difficult relations with the commissioning councils in some areas and further to go in facilitating networking between the local bodies. These weren’t ignored at the conference though they were rather eclipsed by the ‘flag waving’ and back slapping. Still, perhaps you need that sort of encouragement as the fledgling flaps its wings, wondering whether it can fly.

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