What does Healthwatch Reading do?
Healthwatch Reading has three main roles: to inform the public, to influence improvements to services and to provide advocacy services.
We do this by:
- Helping people find health, social care, voluntary or community services
- Informing people of their rights to care, assessments, or support
- Taking feedback from people about their experience of services – both good and bad
- Helping individuals informally resolve issues with services
- Challenging those who run or fund services to make improvements
- Acting as advocates for people who want to lodge formal complaints against the NHS
- Watching services in action through ‘Enter and View’ visits
- Supporting people to have a greater say through local patient and service user groups
- Working in partnership with providers of care to co-design improvements
- Escalating serious concerns to Healthwatch England or official inspectors of services.
How does Healthwatch Reading carry out its work?
We carry out our role by:
- Taking calls from people ringing the Healthwatch Reading hotline 0118 937 2295, Monday-Friday 9am-5pm
- Answering emails sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or replying to queries submitted via our website form
- Meeting the public at information stalls we set up in shopping malls, libraries, festivals and other community venues
- Visiting different community groups, including cultural and faith groups, to explain our role and collect feedback
- Going to schools to educate young people about their right to have a say about local services and to hear their views
- Running focus groups with particular patient or service user groups
- Visiting GP surgeries, hospitals, dentists, care homes and other health and care settings to observe services in action
- Writing to organisations to formally request information on behalf of the public or to request responses to our recommendations for change
- Putting across patient views at public meetings held by directors, governors, councillors or other people making decisions about health and social care
- Presenting anonymised case studies and evidence from the public to commissioners and providers to inform service redesign
- Meeting voluntary sector colleagues to hear their views on how local people are being supported
- Keeping the public updated on latest health and social care developments through daily tweets, weekly news stories on our website, and monthly newsletters
- Taking part in discussions about which new providers should be appointed when contracts for health or social care are renewed.
Does Healthwatch Reading have any powers?
Yes. We can:
- Carry out ‘Enter and View’ visits of health and social care premises – such as GP waiting rooms, communal areas of care homes, or hospital A&E or outpatient departments – to collect public views and observe services in action. This power is set down in The Local Authorities (Public Health Functions and entry to Premises by Local Healthwatch Representatives) Regulations 2013. The power excludes entry to social care services for under 18s.
- Require organisations to respond to information requests, under Section 224 of The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007
- Ask organisations to respond to information requests under the Freedom of Information Act
- Have a voting seat on the Reading Health and Wellbeing Board run by Reading Borough Council, under The Local Authority (Public Health, Health and Well Being Board and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013.
How does Healthwatch Reading decide its priorities?
Our yearly work plan is agreed by a board of community representatives, who act as the ‘ears and eyes’ of the Reading public. They consider: which health or social care issues are affecting a substantial amount of people in Reading, which issues are having the most serious consequences for the public, or what opportunities need to be made for a previously unheard section of the community to have they say.
How is Healthwatch Reading funded?
All local Healthwatch are funded by government via a grant passed down through their local authority – so we are funded through a contract with Reading Borough Council but are not employed by the council. Healthwatch Reading is set up as an independent charity and we have freedom to question and criticise the council’s social care services based on the public evidence we collect.
Can Healthwatch Reading help me if I live outside of Reading?
Healthwatch Reading can assist and take feedback from people living or working in Reading. We can also help relatives or carers of Reading residents, even if the relative or carer lives outside of Reading. People living outside of Reading wanting assistance for themselves will be covered by another local Healthwatch such as Healthwatch Wokingham, Healthwatch West Berkshire and more. Visit www.healthwatch.co.uk to find your nearest Healthwatch.