Setting Priorities for Local Healthwatch
As Local Healthwatch organisations start to be confirmed they will immediately feel pressure to demonstrate impact. What factors does local Healthwatch need to take into account when determining its priorities? I was asked to give a short talk (10 minutes!) at the Healthwatch England Conference held on the 6th of February in Leeds – this is what I said.
There are no quick answers to determining local priorities – but in determining priorities it may be helpful to consider the following:
Which areas of work to prioritise?
- Which tools are most important and when? – What is the right balance in terms of time and resources between Enter and View? data analysis? Service reviews? Which of these (and other tools) will make the biggest impact and under what circumstance?
- Information – what is the right balance between providing advice and information for the public and ensuring that advice and information is available across the local system?
- How much should local healthwatch be the consumer voice and how much should it ensure the consumer voice is heard?
- How much should the focus be on the way in which health and social care services are provided and/or on the type of services that are commissioned?
- Should local Healthwatch have a focus on treatment AND on prevention – what is the right balance?
- Issues to choose – the priority must be system and service level issues
Getting the right principles and values from the beginning
- Prioritise – the easily ignored, the vulnerable, people behind walls in institutions or isolated and lonely in their own homes.
- People whose needs are difficult to meet or measure
- Does this lead us to mental health, learning disability, the vulnerable elderly, dementia?
Relationships – who to influence, work with and represent?
Its nice to be wanted but don’t be seduced by the invitations! Running from one meeting to the next!
- System Leaders. Which are the key system level relationships and do key leaders share the same ambition as local Healthwatch? Who are these people? Are they the leader of the local authority, cabinet lead for health, chair of health and wellbeing board, chair of CCG, chair of Overview and scrutiny are these the right people?.
- Citizens relationships – community development projects, community health champions, volunteers in community and big institutions like foundation trusts, area committees and partnerships – who is connected with active citizens?
- Structures – which are the most influential committees and which are the ones that you just need to know about – Health and Wellbeing Board, Local Quality Surveillance Groups, Overview and Scrutiny, Trust Boards, Voluntary Sector Partnerships, Special Interest Groups etc.
Just because it is a statutory requirement does not mean that it is the best way of doing things!
- Joint Strategic Needs Assessment are important but bring a critical eye – they are often very physical health focussed and may not give enough attention mental health, social care, voluntary sector
- Other information is very important – but this will need building up into a credible framework and narrative – ICAS, Complaints about services, concerns raised at CABx and other welfare rights organisations, Patient Opinion, Feedback, Tribunals, Consultations – we need to know what information is available at a local level.
Quick Wins and the long term. Quick wins are important but local Healthwatch needs to have an informed view on long term challenges as well. These include:
- integration of health and social care,
- Social Determinants of Health,
- Funding for Adult Social Care,
- Prevention versus Treatment,
The above are just a list of ideas and opinions not a definitive list – what do you think?