Recently a local resident e-mailed about a consultation event. He pointed out that he was “spoiled for choice” for events on that day – the clinical commissioning group, the mental health trust and the sustainability and transformation partnership were all consulting on different topics.
It is welcome that local NHS bodies are consulting on their plans, however it is hard to keep track of the sheer volume of change. For concerned residents it is hard to know where best to focus attention if they want to influence future services.
Healthwatch Camden always shares news of consultations and we do what we can to make sure that people get a say. For example, we have been taking paper copies of the current consultation on mental health services to community groups and other places where service users may prefer to respond on paper rather than online. We are helping North London Partners to hold an event about orthopaedic services.
Having a say is only worth it if it makes a difference. A big part of our work is trying to make sure that what local people say is taken seriously and used in service planning.
We interviewed service users and carers about last phase of life services. Now we are working with the NHS team that is making improvements to these services, to make sure that the insights from service users and carers are used to set the standards for future services.
Consulting with an open mind, being prepared to listen and respond is not just good sense and good practice – it is legally required. The Consultation Institute publishes examples of good and bad consultation and explains why some consultations fail. Where residents feel their views are being ignored there are legal routes to challenge public services. For most people this will be further than they want to go.
That is one of the reasons why Healthwatch was set up. We don’t have the power to make or stop change, but we do have the power to make sure that someone listens and responds, without needing to launch a legal challenge.
We also work closely with Camden’s Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, another body with the power to hold service providers and service commissioners to account. So there are many routes to having a real say on service change. We can’t do anything to cut the volume of consultations.
But we are doing everything we can to increase the quality of consultations and to make sure that local voices are loud and strong in them.
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