What does it mean to be British?
One of the greatest Britons of all time (arguably) once said ‘History will be kind to me as I intend to write it’. Although Winston Churchill could be said to have achieved this aim and despite being a national isntitution and the most popular British Prime Minister of all time (then or since) Churchill led his party to its biggest election defeat in 1945. One of the main reasons for this reversal was the electorate’s lack of faith in his ability to deliver the welfare system envisioned by the Beveridge report. Churchill’s coalition government commissioned the report and the plans it set out for comprehensive social reform were to some degree an extension of proposals introduced by Churchill between 1908 and 1911. The British people still placed more importance in Beveridge’s vision, including the birth of another great national Institution than the man who had led the country through six years of war. That Institution was the National Health Service.
So, nearly seventy years on, is the NHS something of which we should be proud and the envy of the world or an expensive white elephant which is so large it is impossible to manage effectively? One thing is certain – it is important we care for the NHS if we want the NHS to care for us. This means feeding back our experiences, good and bad. How do we communicate with an organisation as large and complex as the NHS?’ There are well established NHS complaints procedures for submitting information about poor service and local Patients’ Participation Groups which meet regularly (probably monthly – details available from GPs and practice managers.
What the NHS needs is a local consumer organisation dedicated to health (and ideally social care service provision) which is part of a national network with powers to investigate examples of good and bad practice and to influence policy based on evidence collected from the public. That’s why since April 2013, we have HealthWatch. So make your voice heard – talk to HealthWatch
In some areas, local HealthWatch organisations will also be able to able to act as an advocate when you make a formal complaint as well as giving general advice and support about complaints about the NHS and social care. Representatives from local HealthWatch organisations can request information from health and social care providers, who have a legal duty to respond. Providers of health and social care must reply in writing to reports and recommendations made by local HealthWatch within 20 days (in more complex cases, this time limit is 30 days). Information obtained in this way could help you make a formal complaint. They can also enter and inspect premises, to observe how activities are carried out.
Remember though, feeding back good news stories is just as important as reporting bad experiences.
Are the NHS & Social Care important to you? Talk to HealthWatch?
Telephone: 0303 303 0023 (local rate number)
Text (SMS): 07592 787533
Text Relay: 18001 0303 303 0023
In Surrey, you can also call in at your local CAB and ask about contacting Healthwatch