DH reports on local Healthwatch consultation

 Plans for local Healthwatch organisations to develop as social enterprises, but with the power to subcontract their functions, have been outlined by the DH.

The Summary Report on issues relating to local Healthwatch regulations follows a three-month consultation with targeted stakeholders, experts and the wider public.

Healthwatch, the new ‘consumer champion’ for health and social care, will consist of a national body (Healthwatch England) directing local Healthwatch bodies that will replace the Local Involvement Networks.

Each local authority area will have a local Healthwatch, and this will be a “social enterprise”. The DH will set out “flexible criteria” for that term.

A local Healthwatch will be allowed to make profits, but will have to reinvest at least 50% of them in furthering its “social objective”.

Another key principle is that each local Healthwatch, when authorised by the local authority, will be able to subcontract any of its functions.

To gather information, local Healthwatch must “work collaboratively with existing representatives, groups and organisations, in the statutory and voluntary sectors” as well as gathering the views and experiences of service users.

According to the DH, it will be “unnecessary” for local Healthwatch bodies to be legally required to respond to information requests.