The government has announced the launch of Healthwatch England, a new organisation created to give patients using health and social care services a stronger voice at a national level.
The birth of the group represents a key milestone in delivering the government's vision for healthcare, an important strand of which is making health and social care services more accountable and putting patients at the centre of service development.
Explaining the remit of Healthwatch England, its Chair Anna Bradley explained that it will "argue for what is in the interest of those who use services. Health and social care can be a complex world to understand, however our starting point is simple: it’s about people – their experiences, and needs".
As such, the group will collate views from the community in order to put together a national picture of the issues that matter most to local people, and "make sure their views and experiences are really listened to, analysed and acted upon".
This will allow the views of service users to influence national policy, advice and guidance, and thereby help drive service improvement, the government said.
Healthwatch England will provide leadership and support to local healthwatch bodies, which are set to replace Local Involvement Networks by April 2013, which will be helped by a £3.2 million cash-pot set aside by the government from next year.
The establishment of Healthwatch was first mooted by the now British prime minister David Cameron back in 2007, but it was the Health and Social Care Act five years later that created Healthwatch as the new consumer champion for both health and social care.