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Consumer rights in health and social care?

Healthwatch Camden’s board discussed the ideas, which can be seen on Healthwatch England's website.

A summary of our response is that: “The consumerist approach set out by Healthwatch England puts the onus on the individual to secure their rights. We think the onus should be on the organisation providing the service to ensure people’s rights are protected and respected. The concept of responsibilities in service use sits uneasily with the imbalance of power between patients and clinicians.”

See the full text of our response below. 

Healthwatch Camden comments on the draft rights

We understand that the set of rights have been developed to help people understand what they can expect from health and social care services. We agree that it’s helpful for people to have an idea of what good care looks like, and to expect good care at all times. It’s also important that health care systems are focussed on the people they are serving.

However, we are concerned that the framework’s focus on patients as consumers of healthcare puts the onus on individuals to assert their rights and fight for good care. Whilst borrowing this term from the consumer world may be helpful in terms of changing how people and professionals view health and care service users, we are uneasy at the responsibility it places on people – who are often already burdened with ill health or caring responsibilities - to campaign for their rights to be upheld, as is often the case in the commercial world of the high street.

We find it hard to see how the rights, in their current form, will help consumers as they are very broad. It’s not clear, for example, what ‘basic services’ are, or what kind of care would meet the ‘defined standard’. We believe that a principle based approach, like the National Voices Principles for Integrated Care would help set out more clearly what good care should look like for people using services.

More clarity is needed on what people can expect. For example, what services I can expect my GP to always provide, what they might choose to provide, and what they might provide in my area. This kind of detailed information would help individuals understand if they have been treated fairly. 

Healthwatch Camden would like to see responsibility for delivering patient rights, resting with health and social care organisations. 

We’d be interested to know what local people think on these issues. Comment below or tell Healthwatch England directly