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Message from Frances Hasler – Healthwatch Camden, Director

Healthwatch Camden has a very broad remit. That means that sometimes the job can feel like a particularly complicated juggling act. The different items we have to juggle are not the same shape, weight, or texture. Here’s a selection of what we’ve been thinking about in recent days:

  • Going to the CQC Quality Summit at Great Ormond Street. The hospital has many areas of outstanding practice and most of it is good. But in their inspection last year they fell short on the ‘responsive’ and ‘well led’ domains because they have a large backlog in managing their waiting list, so they are failing the national ‘referral to treatment’ (RTT) targets. (This may not mean that patients have suffered harm as a result  – the Chief Executive said that doctors had been resorting to ‘work-arounds’ to circumvent the list – but without a lot of checking, they cannot be sure.) Only 4% of GOSH patients are from Camden, but as the local Healthwatch where they are located, we feel it’s important to be in touch with what the trust is doing.

  • Providing information about health and social care services – it is one of Healthwatch Camden's core functions. It is why we developed our online guide, Start here....We want to make sure that we are up to date with the information we share and that we are using the best ways to get it to the people who need it. So we are pleased that Camden Council is developing a strategy for information and advice, as part of its duties under the Care Act. We want to see a joined up system, where information is generously shared. We think there is real potential to pool some resources to maintain a data hub that we can all use. People want information to be available wherever they are - which might be at a children's centre or a community group, it might be at the GP, or at home using their smartphone. We are taking part in meetings to develop the strategy.

  • Taking our information stand to UCLH - so that more patients there get to know about Healthwatch and what it does. Not only Healthwatch Camden but also our neighbouring local Healthwatch, because of course, UCLH serves a wide area.

  • Going to a “What next” event hosted by the British Deaf Association. This was showcasing the work they have been doing across London with funding from City Bridge. Deaf people from Camden were there, along with some of the volunteers who have been trained in “enter and view” (visiting services to gather evidence on a particular topic). BDA is keen that all public authorities adopt the BSL Charter . Deaf people at the event were also keen that local Healthwatch helps them to monitor the implementation of the NHS England accessible information standard which all NHS organisations should comply with by July 2016.

  • Planning our next “enter and view” visit, which will be at the Royal Free hospital in Hampstead. These visits are looking at communication for disabled people (including Deaf people) in the A&E departments across North East London.

  • Talking about the 111/Out of Hours service, which is planned and monitored across the five local boroughs that make up the “North Central London” area (Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey, Islington.) We are committed to making sure that patients are engaged in all aspects of planning the service and pleased that two patient reps have been appointed to the Clinical Quality Review Group (CGRG) for the service.

  • Giving feedback to two GP practices about comments we collected in the course of our mother tongue focus groups.

  • Hearing from patients at Somers Town Medical Centre about what they want for the future of the practice (the previous GP has retired). 

  • Understanding primary care co-commissioning – Camden CCG is now jointly commissioning primary medical services (GP services) in partnership with NHS England. This means that while NHS England still holds the contract with the provider of the service, the CCG shares responsibility for planning and monitoring it. Managing any potential conflicts of interest that arise as a result of this role is an important aspect of how the work is governed, and Healthwatch has a role in seeing that it is done.

  • Developing a Centre for Independent Living in Camden – we’re part of a steering group on this topic. Anyone with a long memory may know that it has been in discussion since 2009, long before Healthwatch Camden existed. We want to see it develop as a truly user-led service.

  • Helping to plan the next networking event for Camden Community Education Providers Network – Healthwatch Camden trustee, Saloni Thakrar is speaking at the event about ‘patient-centred care’.

  • Discussing our work to gather the views of women from some of Camden’s BMER communities, concerning developments in sexual health services locally, including the proposals regarding the Margaret Pyke Centre.

  • Following up our two pilot involvement audits, with Camden CCG and with Camden & Islington Foundation Trust. We want to make sure that our findings are useful, and help to build on some existing good work to expand the ways in which patients and the public can influence local services.  

 And on a more down to earth note, as Director I have also been:

  • Contacting people who might be able to offer us office space after September, when the lease here in Kentish Town Road expires.

  • Taking steps to register us for auto-enrolment for pensions (as all employers have to do).

  • Planning our budget and work programme for the new financial year.

As ever in local Healthwatch, the challenge is how to focus our work sufficiently so that we have real impact, while keeping it broad enough so that we are covering the whole of our remit.  All Healthwatch Camden staff need to be able to juggle between topics, to know a great deal about a few things and a little about very many things. If you think there are topics we need to find out more about, let us know. And of you’d like to know more about any of the topics mentioned here, just get in touch or comment below.