Healthwatch Camden gets a lot of benefit from our links with neighbouring local Healthwatch. The borough shares a number of services with Islington, and some other services are planned across several North London boroughs. As someone who started life in Islington, went to schools in Haringey and used library services in Barnet and hospital services in Camden, I’ve always been aware of how the links between these places are as important as the differences.
We are involved with planning covering five boroughs, including Enfield. This group of boroughs is known as North Central London (NCL). Healthwatch is represented in the NCL work about the future of the Out of Hours and 111 service. We have a representative on the Programme Board that manages the work, and on the Patient and Public Reference Group, which advises on the work from a patient perspective.
Recently I went to the first meeting of the NCL Urgent and Emergency Care Network. These networks are being set up to plan a system of care that will ensure that people who need emergency care are treated in centres with the right expertise and facilities while also making sure that people with urgent (but not life threatening) needs get good quality treatment as close to home as possible.
(For more about the purpose of networks, you might like to try the King’s Fund animation explaining them.)
The network brings together senior representatives of local providers and commissioners including medical directors of trusts, chairs of CCGs, directors of adult social care. Camden was well represented, with all our local NHS trusts taking part, as well as Camden Council staff. I was there as the representative of the five local Healthwatch involved.
The network will be looking at big questions. How many urgent care centres should there be? Where should they be? Do they need to be in the same locations are emergency centres? How does urgent NHS care link to the necessary social care? There are different views on these questions. It’s vital that the answers to them are rooted in local engagement.
The Urgent and Emergency Care Network is just one of the cross-borough forums that Healthwatch is invited to. Co-commissioning of primary care services is another, and there is a joint health scrutiny committee across the five boroughs. On the horizon is further joining up, with talks of devolved budgeting across London. It all gives us a lot to understand and a lot to influence. We try to increase our reach by joining up the local Healthwatch voice. But we want the main focus of our work, and the main focus of engagement, to be local. It is often said that London is a collection of villages, each with its own sense of locality. Cross borough and London-wide work needs to stay in touch with the grassroots concerns of every ‘village’ in London.
So what Healthwatch Camden brings to the Urgent and Emergency Care Network is the collected voice of the many Camden villages – from West Hampstead to Kings Cross – and we will be working to make sure that it is heard loud and clear!
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