It seems to be the view of the coalition government that the Health Service is, itself, in need of a health check.
We have all seen the new Health and Social Care Bill and I feel only now that the implications are coming clear. Daily we are seeing more stories of unexpected consequences of these changes and daily more commercial providers are being invited to bid for health and care services.
It seems that the government is also doing away with those independent organisations which were the safeguards of patient care. People like LINks who have been quietly behind the scenes, making sure that the voice of the patient is heard.
Now all of this is to change. As part of Andrew Lansley’s bright new Health Service will come Healthwatch, a new “customer” (we aren’t patients anymore) champion which, as part of it’s remit, subordinate to the Care Quality Commission, will be the first contact in advocacy between “customers” and “providers”.
Now we come to the real problem, The new Local Healthwatch Groups come under the auspices of Local Government. This means that, in real terms, your local advocates who will have the job of making sure that you get the best care will be controlled by the Local Government that has the job of providing the care. I’m sure I’m not the only one who will wonder if this might, possibly, be a tad of a conflict of interest.
Since I am, like most people, new to the Healthwatch idea I went along to the second of the Glos CC consultations which took place in Cheltenham. I wasn’t quite as disheartened as I thought I might be. At the meeting were people who for years have been the backbone of the organisations whom Healthwatch will subsume but with these good people onboard the future is not quite as bleak as it might have been.
What we need now are more community minded individuals and organisations to step up to the mark. People with altruism in their hearts. Then we might still win against those who have only pound signs in their eyes.