It’s a fact that running a local Healthwatch is challenging. Resources are tight and many local Healthwatch are poorly funded, which makes fulfilling the role even harder.
Thank goodness for the dedication of our staff and the energy and the passion of our volunteers who we rely on to support many aspects of our work. It’s been a tough but rewarding journey for local Healthwatch with many successes despite the obvious challenges we face.
A big part of our role at Healthwatch England is supporting you. We do this by covering six key areas key to running an effective Healthwatch. These are identified in the Quality Framework.
What is the Quality Framework?
We worked with the network to develop the Quality Framework in response to requests from Healthwatch on how they can better understand their effectiveness and continuously improve their performance.
To make this framework as useful as possible, we also worked with local authorities to ensure it could be a useful tool to support outcome-based commissioning and delivery.
It also provides Healthwatch England with a consistent way of helping us understand the effectiveness of an individual Healthwatch and the network overall, which in turn helps inform how we can best support you.
The story so far and next steps
Last year, we piloted the Quality Framework with 22 local Healthwatch. Since then, a further 47 have signed up to complete it. These are currently at various stages of completion.
As part of our business plan and strategy, we’ve set a target of all Healthwatch completing the Quality Framework by March 2022. This will help to show the effectiveness of the Healthwatch network and strengthen our case for funding both at a local and national level.
We have now approached each local Healthwatch about using the Quality Framework and to find out how we can best support you through this process.
Why should you complete the Quality Framework?
So, what are the benefits of undertaking the self-assessment? How will it help you create/maintain a sustainable organisation that commissioners will want to continue funding sufficiently during challenging times?
Board members, paid staff and other volunteers have told us that doing the self-assessment has helped clarify what it takes to run a local Healthwatch for maximum effectiveness.
This includes many of the areas that all too easily can be taken for granted such as priority setting, managing your finances, supporting staff and volunteers, managing stakeholders, and showing your impact. Going through the self-assessment helps you put in place the legal ‘must dos’ of not only running an independent organisation but also fulfilling your statutory functions.
Healthwatch have reported that the process of completing the Quality Framework has provided an opportunity for Board members, staff, and volunteers to come together to discuss strengths and how individual roles contribute to the running of an effective Healthwatch. One Healthwatch reported that this has been the first time that they are working with a new cohort of volunteers and had them involved in the process and planning for where they want to be in three years.
Examples of outcomes achieved
Below you can see a snapshot of the types of outcomes that some Healthwatch have achieved through undertaking the Quality Framework. This is very impressive because it is only early days, especially when you consider the impact of COVID-19 on normal operations.
- We have set up regular meetings with our CQC Area Lead, as this had not occurred in 2019! They have been a good way to share insights but has also led to meetings as issues have arisen, and I have now more contact with inspectors of specific services in the patch with good results.
- We are working more closely with Local Authority portfolio holders (old and new) such that we are now being asked to lead engagement piece on future place-based health/care.
- We are now triangulating intelligence and feedback between the day-to-day activities (Feedback Centre, Information and Signposting, meeting and event attendance) and specific commissioned initiatives have improved. Activity is more joined-up now.
- We have changed the way our Board works, with the introduction of non-exec members from the Voluntary Community Sector to increase skills and diversity. We have also reviewed our policies and procedures to make sure areas identified in the Quality Framework are strengthened and reporting to the Board is clear.
- Our retention of both staff and Board members has improved as they more clearly understand the culture and values as well as the strategy and work program on which all our work is based.
- We have more clearly defined how we use the Theory of Change which underpins the Operational Plan. It is used to develop projects in partnership with our stakeholders and supports to measure impact over time.
Learning from each other
We recently advertised a grant opportunity for Healthwatch who have undertaken the assessment to provide peer support to the network through developing case studies and featuring in future webinars.
This is a great opportunity for those Healthwatch who have taken creative approaches to implementing the self-assessment to share their learning and how their approach can be adapted by both large and smaller Healthwatch. It's important that we're able to learn from one another to identify opportunities and make the most of knowledge gained.
Our support to you
The Quality Framework has been divided into six domains with tools available if you need help in a specific area. We're also going to be providing additional guidance and tools about impact and equality and diversity to better support you in these areas.
Don't forget about our Learning and Development calendar that highlights opportunities throughout the year that can help build your skills across each domain too.
After the last year it has never been more important for Healthwatch to be able to demonstrate their value, so if you have not yet engaged with the framework, please do speak to me or your Regional Manager about how we can best support you through the process.