Staffordshire Consumer Champion Backs Francis Demands
A Staffordshire consumer champion has backed calls in the Francis Report for patients to be given a much more powerful voice.
Healthwatch Staffordshire supported recommendations that there should be a set of fundamental standards of care drawn up with the input of patients.
It also backed the call for a strong national structure to deal with patient engagement.
Engaging Communities Staffordshire (ECS) runs Healthwatch Staffordshire – an independent health and social care watchdog which goes live in April.
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As part of Healthwatch UK, Healthwatch Staffordshire will gather and analyse feedback from patients throughout the health service, and it has statutory powers to enter providers' premises to see at first hand how services are being delivered.
Robin Morrison, chair of ECS, said: "The Francis Report makes it absolutely clear that the people who actually use services should be given a powerful voice.
"When they complain, their complaints should not just be heard, they should be investigated and acted upon. The consequences of that not happening are potentially catastrophic, as the Francis Report has shown.
"Health providers need to know that an independent organisation is out and about in every community in Staffordshire – asking questions of patients and demanding answers of providers.
"And the public needs to know it is being represented by a professional organisation with structures, procedures and people that give them the power they deserve.
"That is exactly what ECS is all about, and through Healthwatch Staffordshire we have real teeth.
"No-one can guarantee that health and social care will always be perfect, but an independent body with real teeth – backed by tens of thousands of residents – goes a long way to safeguard service users and their loved ones."
As part of its statutory powers, Healthwatch Staffordshire will be able to recommend improvements and providers will have to respond to those recommendations.
All publicly-funded health services, including hospitals, GPs and dentists, will come under Healthwatch's remit – as will adult and children's social services.
Jan Sensier, chief executive of ECS, said: "We agree there should be a national structure to local patient engagement. We are determined to be part of that solution and we have already developed excellent links with Healthwatch England.
"Staffordshire more than anywhere in the country deserves a really effective and professional Healthwatch – a Rolls Royce of a Healthwatch.
"This is why we have set up ECS – we will deliver a Healthwatch plus that goes beyond the standard local Healthwatch, doing what Robert Francis has recommended by creating one place where all information on people's experiences can be analysed.
"We will also bring in income from other sources in order to plough back resources into making Healthwatch Staffordshire a beacon for ensuring health and social care services are shaped by those that use them."
ECS is an independent consumer champion set up last year to monitor service user feedback and carry out studies and consultations across a wide range of services.
Healthwatch is part of a national scheme, and local Healthwatch groups are being set up across England. Staffordshire Healthwatch will have a seat on the county's Health and Wellbeing Board – a forum of health and social care leaders that helps shape policies and improvements.
For more information, visit www.engagingcommunitiesstaffordshire.co.uk or www.healthwatch.co.uk