National and Local Health Watch

With their White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS (July 2010), the government, attempt to “strengthen the collective voice of patients and the public” by bringing forward provisions in the forthcoming Health Bill to create HealthWatch England.

HealthWatch will be a new independent consumer champion and a statutory part of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to champion services users and carers across health and social care. Through these proposals the Government wishes to create:

“a strong local infrastructure” that will enhance the role of local authorities in promoting choice and complaints advocacy, through the HealthWatch arrangements they commission”.

The government will look at existing mechanisms, including relevant legislation, to ensure that public engagement is fully effective in future, and that services meet the needs of neighbourhoods. They want to avoid cases where “patient and staff concerns were continually overlooked while systemic failure in the quality of care went unchecked”. As part of the new proposals, the Government will build on existing complaints handling structures and “strengthen arrangements for information sharing”, whilst “local HealthWatch will also have the power to recommend that poor services are investigated”.

The health Watch proposals on the White paper seem to have been influenced by the experiences of the existing Kent Health Watch. For more information visit:

Kent Health Watch

The role of HealthWatch

At local level:

  • Local HealthWatch organisations will ensure that the views and feedback from patients and carers are an integral part of local commissioning across health and social care
  • Local authorities will be able to commission local HealthWatch or HealthWatch England to provide advocacy and support, helping people access and make choices about services, and supporting individuals who want to make a complaint. In particular, they will support people who lack the means or capacity to make choices; for example, helping them choose which General Practice to register with
  • Local HealthWatch will be funded by and accountable to local authorities, and will be involved in local authorities' new partnership functions, described in chapter 4. To reinforce local accountability, local authorities will be responsible for ensuring that local HealthWatch are operating effectively, and for putting in place better arrangements if they are not; and
  • Local HealthWatch will provide a source of intelligence for national HealthWatch and will be able to report concerns about the quality of providers, independently of the local authority.

At national level:

  • HealthWatch England will provide leadership, advice and support to local HealthWatch, and will be able to provide advocacy services on their behalf if the local authority wishes
  • HealthWatch England will provide advice to the Health and Social Care Information Centre on the information which would be of most use to patients to facilitate their choices about their care
  • HealthWatch England will provide advice to the NHS Commissioning Board, Monitor and the Secretary of State and
  • Based on information received from local HealthWatch and other sources, HealthWatch England will have powers to propose CQC investigations of poor services.

9 November 2010

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