The health secretary has announced 75 new local HealthWatch pathfinders in England to provide “a collective voice” for patients.
These new learning networks will advise clinical commissioning groups on the shape of local services to ensure they are informed by the views of the local community.
The Department of Health says the pathfinders will give patients a “stronger voice” by championing their views and experiences, promoting the integration of local services and improving choice for patients through advice and access to information.
The 75 Local pathfinders will pilot plans ahead of their full establishment across the country in October 2012.
Visiting a new HealthWatch pathfinder in Cambridgeshire earlier this month, Andrew Lansley (pictured) said: “Putting patients and the public at the very heart of the health service is central to our vision of modernising the NHS.
“Local HealthWatch will give patients and carers a real say over how their local health service is run. They will act as patient champions, drive local involvement in the community and ensure patients understand the choices available to them.”
Mike Hewins, Chairman of Cambridgeshire Local Involvement Network, said: “Cambridgeshire LINk has always worked hard to put patients and service users at the forefront of its work. As a HealthWatch Pathfinder, we’ll be able to reach out and work with many more people in Cambridgeshire and ensure that they are fully involved in health and social care in the county.”
National Voices Chief Executive Jeremy Taylor said: “We are encouraged to see this level of interest in piloting the new HealthWatch organisations. Get this right and HealthWatch will make a real difference in shaping local services, challenging poor safety and quality and supporting individuals.”
However, he added: “We are calling for the urgent establishment of HealthWatch England in shadow form. HealthWatch England will be vital for giving guidance and leadership and for the much-needed statutory voice of patients at national level.”