|The Future of Healthwatch nationally and locally
We would want to respond to local feed-back we have just received from three sources expressing concern that Healthwatch was going to be amalgamated into the Care Quality Commission and dissolved. This statement was allegedly made in a local forum but needs correction. In the famous words of Mark Twain `the reports of (our) death have been greatly exaggerated’!
At a national level, Healthwatch England is physically moving from their current premises in London to co-locate with the Care Quality Commission, that much is true. It is also true that there are some changes taking place at the top of Healthwatch England with a new Chair being appointed by the Department of Health. In addition, Healthwatch England will be looking to appoint a National Director in place of a Chief Executive and this may signal some changes in that role once a permanent appointment is made. Significantly, Healthwatch England has indicated to us that one consequence of the move is that they will be able to devote more time to supporting the local Healthwatch Network (including ourselves). It will also help in developing a stronger working relationship locally with CQC inspection teams but we shall continue to work independently of the CQC. Our capacity to reflect the voice of local people and to challenge both local commissioners and health and social care providers will not be diminished.
Crucially what is not happening is any change by the current government within the foreseeable future to dissolve the current arrangements. Healthwatch was set up under statute under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 but there are no current government plans to repeal that Act or to produce any revised Regulations.
Finally, at a local level, the contract of our host body, North Bank Forum, with North East Lincolnshire Council, was extended last year to 31 March 2017 with an option for a further extension of one year to be made this summer. We are grateful for the continuing positive feedback of the Council on the work we are undertaking and look forward to further development of our work and influence in the days ahead.