Message from Frances Halser, Healthwatch Camden Director – ‘Everything changes and nothing stands still’*

Service change happens for all sorts of reasons, some welcome, some less welcome. People affected by service change should be consulted about it, and the impact of change should be properly assessed.  In Camden services change all the time. How can Healthwatch Camden check that necessary consultation and impact assessment is happening – and that where it happens, it makes a difference?

At present, we find out about service change in a number of ways. Some changes are subject to extensive public involvement. An example of this is the re-commissioning of the 111 and Out of Hours services (see previous blog on this subject).

Some changes we find out about through social media. For example, CNWL is currently reviewing its sexual health services, including the renowned Margaret Pyke Centre. We’ve had a lot of contact on this subject, and are raising people’s concerns with the Trust. 

Some changes are not just being talked about on social media, they are being raised as concerns in official forums. For example, users of the Highgate Day Centre recently went to the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee.

Keeping track of all these changes is not easy to do – the system is complex and the volume of planned change is large. And even if we had the time to read several thousand pages of committee papers every month, we would not be getting the whole picture – a lot of planning happens in committees that are not compelled to publish their papers. 

Where change is large scale we will automatically be asked to get involved. Where it is small – for example a GP surgery closing because the doctor retires, or a clinic relocating because the trust thinks it is a more efficient use of resources – we may only know about it in advance if local people tell us. 

Whatever the scale of the change, we ask the same questions – how are service users being consulted, and how has the impact of change been assessed? You have a right to have your voice heard if you are affected by service change.

We are also planning work to track the impact of service change; where commissioners or providers say that a change will bring about more choice or a better experience for users, does this happen? Look out for more news about this. 

Let us know what you think.  Are you affected by planned service change?  How do you find out about what is happening?  How can we strengthen our links with local people to help you to influence change?

All the NHS trusts in Camden are Foundation Trusts, so local people can become members of the trust and put themselves forward as governors of the trust. If you are an FT governor, would you like to give Healthwatch Camden regular updates on what is happening at your trust? If you belong to a user forum, do you get the information you need about changes in your service?

What would help? 

* attributed to Heraclitus