Have you noticed? The latest reforms of the National Health Service are coming thick and fast – some have already happened and more take effect from April, writes Jo Osorio of Swindon LINk.
But as people and patients, do we really need to care about organisational and structural changes?
For most the key questions remain: can I see the doctor when I need to; will the advice and help I get be what I expect; if I need to see a specialist will I get a convenient appointment in a place I can choose; above all, can I get good quality health and care, will I have to pay – and who decides what I can have anyway?
Healthwatch Swindon will be the consumer champion for health and social care services from next April and replaces Swindon LINk (the Local Involvement Network).
It will be a local, non-profit, independent organisation. Like the LINk, Healthwatch will be there to engage and involve local people to influence how services are planned, commissioned and provided and make them as good as they possibly can be.
Healthwatch will be both local, commissioned by Swindon Borough Council; and also national as an independent part of the Care Quality Commission – www.cqc.org.uk. Healthwatch England will gather information and experience from local areas to influence national policy.
None of this is an easy job for NHS and council planners when budgets are squeezed and demand for services increases all the time. But Healthwatch will be there to inform and signpost people to the services that are available – explain, for example, what choices we have including the rights and responsibilities enshrined in the NHS Constitution- www.swindonlink.org/news/475/64/NHS-Constitution-2012.
When things go wrong, Healthwatch will provide support, if it’s wanted, to go through the NHS complaints system. Healthwatch will gather the views of local people about health and care services using its own research. Most importantly, it will be working alongside and with other local organisations, self-help and community groups and complementing the council’s own health scrutiny committee.
But you don’t need to wait till next April. Swindon LINk is still working to make health and care services better. You can get involved now via www.swindonlink.org or call 01793 497777.