Patient, public and local scrutiny
The inquiry found that the bodies which replaced Community Health Councils – Public and Patient Involvement Forums and Local Involvement Networks – were preoccupied with constitutional and procedural matters. And, in doing so, failed to represent the patient voice in Stafford.
Francis therefore recommended a consistent structure for local Healthwatch organisations, and that funding for them should be accounted for and ring-fenced. He also recommended that guidance, support and training should be provided to help strengthen local government’s scrutiny of local health and care services, to which local Healthwatch is an important contributor.
In response to these recommendations, the government has worked with partners to develop guidance that will support effective scrutiny by local government of the commissioning and delivery of local services, helping to ensure they are effective and safe. The guidance is due to be published in November 2013.
While the government does not accept the mandation of a single structure for local Healthwatch organisations, it does agree that local Healthwatch organisations need to be focused on their role as effective consumer champions for local communities rather than getting bogged down in questions of form and procedure.
Local authorities are responsible for ensuring their local Healthwatch providers are delivering effectively. And Healthwatch England has a key role in maintaining an overview of the network, in building capability and providing targeted support where needed.
Equally, while the government does not accept the ring-fencing of funding for local Healthwatch, the actions being taken with Healthwatch England to increase transparency will help to ensure that local authorities can be scrutinised and held to account for the funding decisions they make in relation to local Healthwatch.
Recommendation 145Local Healthwatch structure
Recommendation 146Local Healthwatch Funding
Recommendation 147Coordination between local Healthwatch and other scrutiny organisations
Recommendation 148Local Healthwatch leadership
Recommendation 149Support for scrutiny committees
Recommendation 150Power of inspection for scrutiny committees
Recommendation 151Complaints to Members of Parliament