National Voices’ local influencing and campaigning network brings together professionals in member organisations who run campaigns that try to effect change at a local, as well as national level. At our last network meeting in September, Jacob Lant, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Healthwatch England joined members to talk about how charities can work with Healthwatch locally and nationally.
Whilst many network members have worked with Healthwatch in the past, none of us fully understood how they operated and how best to work with them to benefit those we support.
This blog attempts to make things a bit clearer for voluntary sector organisations looking to work with Healthwatch.
Healthwatch’s structure and operational model
Healthwatch is a national network of statutory organisations set up to give local people a say in how health and social care services should be run.
The network has a national body, Healthwatch England, and 152 independent local Healthwatch covering each local authority area in the country. Every Healthwatch sets their own priorities based upon local intelligence. However, the combined priorities are analysed on an annual basis and are used to set the workplan for Healthwatch England.
The network is supported by a team of regional managers split across four regions – North, London, South and Central. Local Healthwatch across these regions meet on a quarterly basis to share intelligence, discuss priorities and identify opportunities for joint working.
Healthwatch have a range of statutory duties and powers. These include the ability to visit any taxpayer funded health and care service to speak to people about their experiences of care and report this to providers, commissioners and national regulators. Each Healthwatch also has a seat on their local health and wellbeing boards.
Through the conversations they have with health service users, they amass huge amounts of data on people’s experiences. This is where their campaigning power lies: the data enables them to identify issues and evidence their campaigns. They publish analysis and top line data, and are happy to work with charities to delve into the detail on specific issues and conditions. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org with requests.
Healthwatch England has recently changed its strategy to be more focused on partnership working. To support this it is hiring a campaigns officer; once in post this person will be a good point of contact for the VCSE sector.