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By Debbie le Quesne

New champions – but don’t expect a call just yet

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After years of debate, the Local Involvement Networks (LINKs) – champions for health and social care for England – have been replaced by Healthwatch England.

Healthwatch is the new independent consumer champion that gathers and represents the public’s views within the care sector.

It operates both on a national and local level and ensures that the views of the public and people who use the services are taken into account.

But it’s not a regulatory body like the CQC and does not have direct responsibility to change practices.

It does, however, have lots of legal clout and those who run health and social care services have to take heed of what they say.

The official line is:

Local Healthwatch organisations will:

  • Have the power to enter and view services
  • Influence how services are set up and commissioned by having a seat on the local health and wellbeing board
  • Produce reports which influence the way services are designed and delivered
  • Provide information, advice and support about local services
  • Pass information and recommendations to Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission

These people do have a right to enter care homes . . . but there’s the inevitable ‘but’ and it’s a big one.

While we can all see some worth in Healthwatch England’s role, its remit is huge – hospitals and GPs as well as social care – and like everyone else will be restricted by budget.

Can you expect a call anytime soon? Probably not.

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