The White Paper Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS (July 2010) and the Department’s response Equity and excellence: legislative framework and next steps (December 2010) set out the Government’s intention to “put patients and the public first” by establishing Healthwatch England as the national champion to strengthen the collective voice of patients and the public.
The Health and Social Care Bill 2011 therefore proposes that Healthwatch will be the new consumer champion for both health and social care. The Bill is currently undergoing parliamentary scrutiny and debate, and, if it receives royal assent, will become an Act of Parliament. The reference to functions exercisable by Healthwatch England below is therefore subject to the passage of the Bill through Parliament. Once established, as proposed, in October 2012, Healthwatch England will have three main functions:
- It will provide leadership, guidance and support by way of advice and assistance to local Healthwatch organisations; this will help to create greater consistency across local Healthwatch organisations, for example through the sharing of best practice.
- It will be able to escalate concerns about health and social care services raised by local Healthwatch, users of services, and members of the public to CQC. CQC will be required to respond in writing to advice provided by Healthwatch England.
- It will be able to provide information and advice (which could include recommendations and reports) to the Secretary of State, NHS Commissioning Board, Monitor and the English local authorities. The recipients of Healthwatch England’s advice will be required in law to respond to Healthwatch England in writing.
- In addition, the Secretary of State for Health will be required to consult Healthwatch England on the mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board.
The fundamental purpose of Healthwatch England is to be a national body that enables the collective views of the people who use health and social care services to influence national policy, advice and guidance.
The Department of Health consultation document, attached below, sets out the policy aims of Healthwatch England, and seeks to gather your views about aspects of the membership of Healthwatch England. The response form is also provided – please note the consultation is only available for electronic responses.
This consultation aims to give stakeholders and the public the chance to contribute to the development of the membership regulations for Healthwatch England.
The key issues for consideration in relation to the membership of Healthwatch England, as the Department has heard from stakeholders are:
- The number of the members
- Suitability for membership
- The process for appointing members
- The period of time a member should be appointed
The consultation therefore seeks to ask questions on these areas to inform the regulations.
The Department of Health are conducting this consultation for 6 weeks, ending on 2 March 2012. The responses will be collated, and the Department’s response will be published in early summer.
For further background reading on Healthwatch England see below:
DH Healthwatch England Narrative Jan12 (793.44 kB)
For any further enquiries contact Hillingdon LINk. In addition, we are always interested in keeping up-to-date with all responses from members of the public in the Hillingdon Borough, so please do also forward your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org