Q1. Is Healthwatch part of the NHS?

No. Although Healthwatch England is part of the Care Quality Commission, local Healthwatch organisations have been established as fully independent bodies run by local people, for local people.

Q2. Is local Healthwatch accountable to Healthwatch England?

No. Healthwatch Birmingham will raise issues of local significance to Healthwatch England for them to use as influencing evidence at government level. Healthwatch Birmingham is financially accountable to it’s commissioners, Birmingham City Council and the Clinical Commissioning Groups; as well as being accountable to its members and the general public of Birmingham for its impact as their consumer champion and watchdog of health and social care services.

Q3. What happened to Local Involvement Networks (LINks)?

Local Involvement Networks (LINks) ceased to exist after the 31st March 2013. Their work and legacy is being carried forward as part of the remit of local Healthwatch.

Q4. Local Healthwatch are being described as consumer champions. What impact do you think local Healthwatch will have on local services?

Local people’s voices will go directly into shaping health and social care services in their area. Those services will meet local needs in a much better way, ensuring people are able to get the best out of them. The more people get involved, the more impact the local Healthwatch will have.

Q5. How exactly will the Healthwatch be able to hold local health and social care services into account?

Healthwatch Birmingham can request information from local organisations, commissioners and providers. They then have 20 working days to return the information requested. The trained members of Healthwatch (staff or volunteers) are authorised to perform ‘Enter and View’. These are powers to go to a service unannounced or announced and have a look at the work/standards in that practice.

Healthwatch Birmingham has worked very hard to create partnerships and collaborative relationships with local services and providers, in order to discuss issues openly and effectively.

Once local people bring up an issue, it will be addressed by Healthwatch and the service provider/organisation together. Twenty working days is given to the organisation to respond as to how they will resolve the issue and improve. A report is then produced by Healthwatch and made public.

The report will include recommendations both from the public involved in the Healthwatch and the steps taken by the organisation concerned.

Service providers as well as health and social care organisations have a duty to the public to listen to issues that are brought forward and respond to/act upon them.

Q6. How important is local community involvement to the work of local Healthwatch?

It is key to us. Healthwatch Birmingham is driven by local people; we only take up the issues that locals tell us about. Therefore, the more people, the more issues/services looked into.

Q7. How can people get involved?

There is a huge scope of opportunity for people to get involved; from signing up and receiving Healthwatch monthly newsletters and reading Healthwatch news, to attending events, taking part in local and national consultations, and suggesting issues to be reviewed. There is the opportunity to volunteer as a representative at Healthwatch meetings, as well as become fully trained and authorised to perform ‘Enter and View’ visits.

Q8. Do they have to have a background in health or social care?

No. We are all affected by the quality and provision of health and social care services, so Healthwatch Birmingham wants to hear everybody’s experience of these services, and positively encourages everybody to get actively involved in our work.

Q9. Fast-Forward to 2016. What would success look like for Healthwatch Birmingham?

A large number of people actively involved.

People feeling like they have been able to make an impact and that they have ownership of the services they use.

Healthwatch being recognised as the place to go to find out about health and social care and to comment about the services they receive.