Good or bad, a new organisation wants to hear your views on the healthcare you’re receiving.
That is at the crux of a new network set up to listen to patient experience within the NHS.
Healthwatch was born out of the Health and Social Care Bill, which came into effect in April this year.
The way the NHS is run has been changed dramatically, and with it, a patient support unit has been created.
There are 152 Healthwatch groups across the country – locally Healthwatch Portsmouth covers the city, while Healthwatch Hampshire covers the county. All of the groups come under Healthwatch England.
And in a bid to raise awareness, the groups have been going out on the road to speak to people.
Steven Taylor, is manager of Healthwatch Portsmouth, which is run by Learning Links.
He says: ‘We do have powers, such as going into a health organisation to look at certain issues.
‘So for instance we could call in to Queen Alexandra Hospital if there were things to be looked at. We can demand answers from private trusts, and we are a bit more powerful than the Link group before us.
‘We’ve also got a partnership with the University of Portsmouth, so we can get a range of people to speak up. A weekly clinic has been set up so people can come and talk to us and explain their experience.’
For its first year, Healthwatch Portsmouth, has set up four key points it wants to tackle. These are:
· The principles of good engagement within the city between providers and commissioners and service users.
· A look at the dementia pathway to ensure good practice.
· Integrated care.
· Portsmouth’s response to national reports such as Francis – the investigation into the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust’s failings – and Winterbourne View – the private hospital where staff cruelty was uncovered by Panorama reporters – and what needs to improve locally.
‘The roadshows went really well,’ adds Steve. ‘We spoke to about 40 people and were interested to hear their feedback.
‘We have written to those health providers that had positive feedback, as it’s important to know when you are doing a good job so you carry on good practice. We have got to get this patient feedback so we can build up a database and help make changes happen.’
A clinic has been set up at the Advice Portsmouth Centre, in Kingston Road, Buckland, every Tuesday.
Martyn Webster, Healthwatch Hampshire manager, explains: ‘Healthwatch Hampshire is the new consumer organisation to help people get the best out of their health and social care.
‘We want patients to tell us what’s going on in care services where they live, tell us what you like and what you don’t like.
‘We tell services about your experiences and hold them to account. Your voice counts, and can change care for the better.
‘We can also provide information about local health and care services – including what to do if you have a concern or a complaint – and help you find your way round the system.
‘In Hampshire, Healthwatch is being run by a partnership of three organisations – Help and Care, Citizens Advice Hampshire and Community Action Hampshire.
‘You can find Healthwatch at any at Citizens Advice Bureau in the county.’
ABOUT THE GOVERNORS
EACH Healthwatch organisation has a board, which oversees the work carried out.
That was appointed to run Healthwatch and will remain in this form until a full election – due to take place in January next year.
The board makes decisions about the priorities of Healthwatch and the main projects that it will work on each year.
It is made up of 10 people – six lay members and three advisors – from the University of Portsmouth, Learning Links and Portsmouth City Council – and the Healthwatch manager.
One of the lay members is Graham Heaney, pictured, who has been on the health scene for a number of years.
Mr Heaney was a non-executive director of the former Portsmouth Healthcare NHS Trust, and helped set up Link – the former patient support group.
He says: ‘We want to ensure Healthwatch is launched properly, that people can relate and get involved to share ideas. We have a nominated person on the health and wellbeing board, and that is important.
‘That’s where policy decisions are made, and we will be in on that.’