Healthwatch - putting people at the centre of services
Our Healthwatch teams got together in person recently to share experiences and plan for the future together with CEO at The Advocacy People Matthew Hilton, and national Healthwatch director Louise Ansari.
Here, Matthew reflects on the complementary perspectives and shared goals of Advocacy and Healthwatch, and the need for systems to be grounded in the experiences of the individual people who use them.
The Advocacy People’s family of Healthwatch services is now up to five. Last week, some of us spent a great day discussing what we collectively make of the world. Many thanks to my colleagues, to Louise Ansari from Healthwatch England for joining us, and to our trustee Simi Gandhi-Whitaker for arranging hospitality at Mitie’s great offices in The Shard.
At The Advocacy People, we want people and their experiences to be at the heart of what we do. And it’s good news that we are now able to pursue that theme more widely in the Healthwatch context too.
There are certainly differences between the perspectives of advocacy and of Healthwatch, but there is congruency in what we hope to achieve over both. Advocacy is fundamentally and crucially about individuals; about supporting individuals by empowering them to speak up for themselves. Building on that, we want our observations of these individual experiences to influence system change for the better.
Healthwatch bases its approach on representing the patient voice and on how services are delivered. In helping to drive system change, the work of Healthwatch impacts on individual experience.
Isn’t it a fair point – and a widely applicable one – to remember that when we do think about systems, we want to keep those systems grounded in the reality of individuals’ experience?
System thinking should foreground things like impact, simplicity and effective signposting, particularly at times of change and uncertainty for many.
Reflecting on all this made me realise that we can spend a lot of time being sidetracked by what is often, frankly, just the background detail. I hope we can all work together, within our organisations and with our commissioners and other stakeholders, to keep our collective effort focused on the people who use all these services.
It was certainly hugely positive to feel that these perspectives did indeed come together in our own Healthwatch leadership group, with its overall shared sense of the need to cope with change when you're in the sort of service delivery line of work we are in. This is true both as advocates and as Healthwatch providers, helping people understand different cultures and new delivery models.
And more than that, wanting those people to be respected by those in positions of power, and given agency for what happens in their own lives.