Message from Frances Hasler – Healthwatch Camden, Director

A Happy New Year from all of us at Healthwatch Camden!  

2016 looks like bringing some changes to Healthwatch, both locally and nationally.

Healthwatch Update

Locally, we are planning to take account of a decrease in our grant and a probable change in our office (to a new location in the Autumn). We want to continue our whole programme of work. To do this we need to develop some new ways of bringing in income, through contracts, consultancy and partnerships.

Nationally, Healthwatch England is getting a new Chair, and some new management arrangement, including a new Director. We don’t yet know how this will affect how they support local Healthwatch. We’ve written to the Department of Health to tell them how valuable we find the network support provided by Healthwatch England.

Networking is a key part of successful local Healthwatch work. Locally we are continuing to network with our counterparts in the North Central London region to make sure there is a clear public voice in cross-borough plans. In addition to urgent and emergency care, and primary care commissioning, which we are already engaged in, work is starting on mental health services. If you’d like to be involved in this, let us know.

Healthwatch Camden Partnerships

Partnership is another key to success, and one of our early reports this year will be our joint report with Camden Council’s health and adult social care scrutiny committee, about health inequalities affecting the borough’s Bangladeshi residents. This has been an ambitious programme of work. We set out to learn from Camden’s Bangladeshi community members how to drive and sustain improvements in health and wellbeing. The work has focused on healthy living and mental health. We hope that our recommendations will help to shape a programme of real improvement.

Budgets

Of course, it is not just in Healthwatch Camden that change is being felt. Budget reductions and service redesigns locally mean that many services are changing. It is hard to keep track of the impact of every change, but we are doing our best to fulfil our core task of making sure that local people have a strong voice in the services that they use. Later in the year we will be reporting on our audio diary project, supporting mental health service users to have their say. We will also be encouraging people to respond to local consultations – including a current one from CNWL, concerning sexual health services (Update on sexual health services).

Some of our future tasks

Another of our core tasks is giving feedback to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) about our contacts with local services. The start of the year sees inspections locally for the Royal Free London, Camden & Islington NHS (mental health trust) and the Tavistock and Portman. CQC want to know about local experience of the services, good or bad, or just ‘could do better’.

Our priorities are always set by local people. In addition to mental health, you’ve told us that you’d like to know more about the quality of residential services for older people, so we will be carrying out a programme of visits using our ‘enter and view’ powers later this year. 

Some of what we do will build on what we’ve done. We’ll be following up our study about local GP services. We’ll be continuing to add to and to promote our web-based information guide, ‘Start here…’and responding to people who contact us for help. 

We will continue to work with our partners on the Camden’s health and wellbeing board, to promote better health outcomes, and the best use of all health and wellbeing resources in the borough. 

All local Healthwatch are accountable to their local populations, and to do that successfully we need to communicate really well. This year we are increasing our digital communications as well as launching new print publications.

We’re also continuing our programme of outreach to less well heard communities, building on our relationships with local community organisations.

As always, if you’ve got views on the things we are working on, please tell us or comment below.

If you’d like to be more involved in making local health and social care better – get in touch, we’ll link you up with the opportunities that exist. And if there are things we are not working on that you think are important, tell us that, too.

We look forward to lots of contact with you in 2016.