In case anyone is under any illusions about the toothlessness of the Calderdale Healthwatch dog, Dr Lucy Reynolds spells out the facts in a video interview (about 50 minutes in).
Healthwatch will launch locally in Leeds on 11th April. You can register to attend the launch.
The transcript of Dr Reynold’s comments about Healthwatch follow:
“HealthWatch is a replacement for I think what were called LINks, which also seem to have been rather less effective from the fact that their management was outsourced to the private sector some time ago: so they were already very much captured, because they were being run by the private healthcare industry. HealthWatch England is even weaker. If you look at what it’s allowed to do; it’s not allowed to question health care policy or the implications of health care policy, and its rights are limited to the right to compose and send a letter. There is no right to have the letter answered, or actioned, but they are allowed to write letters.
“So this is the system whereby the public will be able to ensure that the NHS works in an appropriate manner. So I think you can assume that all of the accountability mechanisms are going to be like that: they put them in because that will convince people that it’s all very democratic, but actually when you look at what recourse those organisations have, it is very very plain that they have all been set up to be toothless in the first place. Furthermore, HealthWatch England has been set up as a sub-group of the Care Quality Commission — that continually scandal-hit organization, which is failing to do quality inspections in an appropriate manner. They are understaffed, most of their inspectors have got no medical training, and they don’t seem to think it is very important to have medically qualified people. What they are there to do is to tick the box that the regulation has been done. And it is not desirable for the people who are behind all these reforms, of course, that the regulations actually be done. So then you have got the situation where the public regulator, HeathWatch England, is a sub-set of the Care Quality Commission, under the control of the Care Quality Commission, and of course anything that HealthWatch England is going to be complaining about already represents a failure of function of their parent body. How much are they really going to be allowed to do anything about it?
“The whole thing is really very neatly sewn up, so that it looks like an accountability mechanism, but cannot be operated as one. This is why I say that if we actually want to get the NHS back we must stop having faith in following the systems as they have been set up, because the whole thing is stacked so we will definitely lose. We need to make enough disturbance to all this so we can force things to start being done in a different way, because the current system is completely hopeless. You cannot succeed by using it. If you want clear accountability for the NHS, then you don’t try doing it though HealthWatch, I would recommend that the local newspaper would be much more effective.”
To add insult to injury, the head of the Care Quality Commission, which oversees Healthwatch, is corporate henchman David Prior. Not going to get much sympathy for a publicly owned and accountable NHS there.