Healthwatch England is starting a new chapter under its new chair, Sir Robert Francis. If the name sounds familiar, then you’re right – he is the lawyer that led an inquiry from 2010, into the ‘Mid-Staffs scandal’ which uncovered shocking neglect and deaths of patients at a hospital that local people and relatives had ‘blown the whistle’ about.
In his speech to the Healthwatch England annual conference at the beginning of October 2018, he said: “I want Healthwatch to help start a social movement of citizens who really want to make a difference in our NHS. I want Healthwatch to be the banner under which they can help our NHS and social care services be the best they can possibly be.” He added: “Politicians often talk about it being ‘our NHS’. Well, if it truly is ‘our NHS’ and ‘our’ social care service then our relationship with it needs to change. We need to stop seeing ourselves as passive recipients of a service and start seeing ourselves as joint owners.”
Healthwatch England uses public feedback that all 152 local Healthwatch collect in their areas (including us in Reading) to lobby government for improvements to health & care services.
So how can Reading people be part of this social movement? Take your pick:
• Call, email or drop in to us to tell us what you love about the NHS or care services (such as home care, support with disabilities or residential homes), or what you feel isn’t working
• Request help with a concern you have about how you’re being treated by a health or care service
• Ask us about opportunities to get formally involved in shaping local services
• Tell your neighbours, friends and family how our team have helped you.
Healthwatch Reading team manager, Rebecca Curtayne, travelled to the Healthwatch England conference and also heard:
The government’s 10-year Long Term Plan for the NHS is due out before Christmas. Healthwatch England said that evidence they collect from all local Healthwatch will inform this, including: 45,000 views about primary care, 43,000 about mental health, 6,500 views about urgent and emergency care, 5,000 views from carers, and 750 pieces of feedback from homeless people.
Would you like an app that can give you live waiting times at different A&E departments in a region, to help you decide where to go? This was just one of the ideas being looked at by NHS Digital, according to a presentation given to the conference.
The NHS was still ‘miles away from parity of esteem’ (which means people with mental health needs getting care as quickly as those people with physical conditions), according to Paul Farmer, head of mental health charity Mind.
We were moved by a talk given at the conference by Healthwatch Central and West London about how they supported their community after the Grenfell Tower fire – including sending out information on where people could find food, water, clothing and other support via social media on the morning of the fire, to fill their council’s information gap, and persuading the NHS to translate trauma leaflets into more languages spoken by local people.