Healthwatch the quiet watchdog

Community Health Council Signpost
Community Health Council Signpost

There is still a sign outside Gloucester Station pointing towards the former Community Health Council office.  CHCs were abolished by the Labour Government in 2003, though nobody knows why.  They were replaced by Patient Forums, which were strangled at birth and replaced by Local Involvement Networks which in their turn were replaced by Local Healthwatch on 1st April.

Of course this pattern of creative disorder has only been followed in England.  In Wales Community Health Councils have continued, though they have been reconfigured to take account of the way services in NHS Wales have changed.  Scotland never had CHCs.  The Scottish Health Council supports NHS Boards in Scotland to  involve patients, carers and communities in planning and providing healthcare. Where a service change requires formal consultation, they produce an assessment report that advises if the Board’s consultation and engagement has met national standards and if it hasn’t the change can be stopped.

Healthwatch has a national organisation, Healthwatch England, unlike its immediate predecessor.  It was suggested before it was set up that the national organisation would be responsible for “Brand and reputation development work”  The Local Government Association were told last year that “The national advertising campaign and branding for Healthwatch – this will be led by Healthwatch England when it is established in the autumn.”

This national advertising campaign has not appeared  though we have got very detailed Visual Brand Guidelines for local healthwatch. Some of us still remember fondly the advertising campaign run by the Commission for Public Involvement in Health which featured a bloke dressed up in a chicken costume, designed to demonstrate that quite normal people might want to join a patient’s forum.  A bit weird perhaps, but something like that is needed.