Healthwatch Week 2021: What did you miss?

Take a look at some of the best from Healthwatch 2021, which saw over 600 staff, volunteers and stakeholders get together online to debate, share and learn.
Healthwatch Week Logo with the words share, learn and celebrate


Healthwatch Week ran from 9-12 November 2021 and saw staff and volunteers join us online from across England. Find out the key takeaways from each day and access further resources to help you apply what we learned. 

Day one

A message from NHS England

The conference got going with a welcome message from NHS England Chief Executive Amanda Pritchard. Amanda spoke about how much the NHS appreciates the work you do to make care better and the vital role Healthwatch can play in helping to overcome the challenges that health and social care services face. 

Healthwatch Week 2021 Message from Amanda Pritchard

Our Chair, Sir Robert Francis QC, then talked about how far we had come, with more than two million people supported to share their experience or get advice last year. However, he warned delegates that we still faced challenges that we must overcome to remain relevant. 

Ensuring patient voice in health and social care

This session started with a look at how the public is feeling about the NHS. According to Anna Quigley from Ipsos, while support for services remains high, people are also worried. Waiting times for care are a top concern, with only 12% of the public saying that current waiting times are acceptable.

Delegates then heard from father Jeremy Harris about his experience of being ignored when trying to advocate for better care for his daughter. Highlighting how carers and patients need to have a voice to work with the care system from the very start, he said: 

"16 residential place failed by daughter, blaming her and us - the parents - for our actions. We had to challenges that. But the more we were saying things weren't right, the more we were excluded  by the system."

Fatima Khan-Shah from West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership also shared the steps she thinks the NHS needs to take to genuinely involve people in designing care.  These included:

  • Go to people, don't expect them to come to you; and
  • Support people to build the skills and confidence they need.

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.

Takeaways from other sessions

Putting our values into practice

Most staff believe our brand is critical to our work but do deliver a strong brand we need to embed our values in our work. Tips include:

  • Have clear objectives and follow up on work to understand your impact so we can demonstrate our value of 'acting'.
  • Train staff to ensure our communications are accessible to help deliver our value of 'including'. 
  • Adopt our new brand behaviours when they are launched. 

Collecting demographic data

Lots of factors, like ethnicity and peoples income levels, can affect peoples care. Collecting demographic data is key to understanding the experiences of different sections of the community. When you live in areas that are not as diverse, this information is even more critical. Asking for demographic data is not always straightforward, but there is training to support you. Every little bit of information helps when collecting demographic data and even answering one question is better than answering none. 

Using the quality framework

The Quality Framework self-assessment tool has helped many local Healthwatch understand work areas that might need improvement. Lessons from local Healthwatch who have been through the exercise includes the importance of harnessing the different perspectives of board members, staff and volunteers and prioritising actions over time to make them manageable. 

Communicating the difference we make

People must understand the difference their views have made to local services. Tactics to achieve this goal include:

  • Make time to track if changes have occurred and plan this into your work.
  • Promoting the improvements that have been achieved rather than the tasks that got you there. 
  • Describe what you have achieved engagingly and what would have happened if services had not acted on your evidence. 

Key reflections

Ending the day, our former national director Imelda Redmond reflected on the unique role of Healthwatch.

Our strength comes from having robust data backed up by powerful stories to help achieve change
— Imelda Redmond

Presentations from the day

Download the presentations from the following sessions:

  • Using the Quality Framework for success
  • Board and leadership drop in session
  • Ensuring patient voice 
  • Grasping the intangible
  • Collecting demographic information
Presentations from day one

Day two

Holding services to account

Day two kicked off with a debate about one of our important roles - holding care services to account. Delegates agreed that this works best when we build constructive relationships with health and social care decision-makers, and we can influence decisions before they are made. Many of you think that carrying out this role will be challenging in the new health and care landscape, but we can if we continue building our skills, relationships and working together to be heard. 

Tackling inequalities 

Hidden voices

Historian and broadcaster, Professor David Olusoga, joined us to talk about the role of Black and Asian communities in the development of the NHS and why it’s crucial to have often hidden voices in leadership roles.

He highlighted the massive role that COVID-19 has played in exposing structural racism and inequalities. We must all come together to tackle inequalities. We can't just leave it to one group to fight, we must all stand up and play our part. Talking to delegates he said:

"Black people cannot do this on their own. We cannot destroy these ideas that have been around for hundreds of years on our own. It's work for all of us"

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.

NHS plans to make care more equal

The heads of the NHS's leading programmes to tackle health inequalities set out their plans and the role that we can play. 

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube. 

Putting equalities at the heart of our work

In a session looking at why we need to embed equalities in our work, delegates heard about the high expectations of the public and stakeholders that, because of our role and reach, we will help tackle health inequalities.  

Although most Healthwatch are working on equality issues and there is a commitment to improve and expand this work, our review and resulting equalities roadmap highlight the need to:

  • Make sure staff and volunteers understands our public sector equality duty
  • Better map our relationships with different communities and improve our collection of data about who we are talking to
  • Build the diversity of our boards, staff and volunteers
  • Ensure a focus on tackling health inequalities is part of our contracts with local councils. 

Presenting, Joy Beishon from Healthwatch Greenwich said we also need to more to empower communities: 

"We need to shift from engaging local communities to empowering local communities, supporting an environment and providing a platform where people, especially those who are most disadvantaged, can speak for themselves."

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.

Takeaways from other sessions

Making your communications accessible

Accessibility isn't a box-ticking exercise and should be an essential part of our everyday work. To make sure your communications are accessible, there are straightforward steps you can take, like using ALT tags. You can also avoid doing things, like using complex language, to ensure what you say is easy for people to understand. The brand language guide includes an accessibility checklist you can use.

Using data to make a difference

Once you're collecting demographic data, analysing it to understand what it can tell you involves trial, error and exploration. Top tips include using statistical approaches like ratios and pivot tables to see what you uncover and using external data to make comparisons. 

How volunteers can help tackle inequalities

In helping to tackle health inequalities, its important to have volunteers drawn from across the diverse communities we serve. Our volunteers can play an essential role by championing equality in our work, raising awareness of the different perspectives some groups have and helping to build relationships with their communities.


Presentations from the day

Download the presentations from the following sessions:

  • Putting equality at the heart of Healthwatch
  • Holding to account
  • I'm a volunteer, how can I help
  • How to make your communications accessible
  • Core20 plus 5 - a focused approach to tackling inequalities
  • Analysing research findings by demographics
Presentations from day two

Day three

A message from Government

Minister of State for Health Mr Edward Argar MP welcomed delegates by speaking about our role in the future NHS landscape.

Minister of State for Health message to Healthwatch

Playing our part in the new NHS landscape

Integrated Care Systems aim to improve outcomes, tackle inequalities and enhance productivity across an area. But, the partnerships of NHS, local councils, care providers, voluntary organisations and others, will change the way decisions are made about the planning and delivery of care. 

With ICSs starting work in April 2022, the debate on day three focused on our role, how we can remain influential and what we need to do to prepare. 

Although many of you are working on getting ready for ICSs, delegates clarified that challenges remain, and we need to make quicker progress. Problems include knowing if you'll be represented at every level of ICS decision-making, providing insight covering a larger geographical area, and finding the resources to do this new work.  

With high expectations amongst ICS partners of how we can help, conversations focussed on what we need to do now to be ready next April. 

Five steps get ICS ready: 

  • Put a formal working agreement in place with other local Healthwatch in your ICS area.
  • Ask your ICS and local council for clarity on resources.
  • Make sure you're represented on the boards or partnerships where the ICS will make decisions.
  • Get the ICS governance policies to define how they will engage communities in their work.
  • Make sure your ICS understands our independent role, what support Healthwatch can provide and get a formal agreement with them in place.

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.

Resources to help you

Healthwatch England in partnership with the NHS has already produced a range of case studies to help you get ICS ready. 

Find out more

Takeaways from other sessions

Policy breakfast briefing: Social care

The public are unclear on the recent changes to social care and are increasingly concerned about issues like access, eligibility and how to pay for care. There are a lot of issues across the country at the moment with inconsistent care and financial assessments. This can lead to people giving up and not getting the care they need. We can help by focussing on clear advice and highlighting where local needs are not being met.

Supporting volunteers in the new health and social care landscape

The role of volunteers within the new ICS landscape is unclear and only just over a third of delegates were confident that their ICS had volunteering on their agenda. Without a statutory requirement volunteer and patient involvement is likely to be inconsistent across the country. You can help by raising volunteering with your ICS and encouraging a discussion to find out what roles our volunteers can help with.  

Representation of people and communities through local Healthwatch 

Having a seat at the ICS table is important that Healthwatch demonstrate the value they bring. Bring able provide to provide evidence we collect at an ICS level and build trust through this valuable insight is key. Having Healthwatch representation will also give us the opportunity to hold systems to account for their decisions. Doing this is often a difficult task that uses a lot of resource, so it is important we come together, support and learn from each other. 

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.

Celebrating the difference we make

Day three also saw our annual network awards ceremony, celebrating the difference you've made over the last twelve months. 

Watch more about the difference we've made

Who won a Healthwatch award?

This years winners were:  

  • Healthwatch Reading won the engagement category
  • Healthwatch Essex won the COVID-19 response category
  • Healthwatch Islington won the category celebrating our volunteer teams
  • Healthwatch Leeds won the tackling inequalities category
  • Healthwatch in North East London won the category for working with your ICS. 

Find out more about the award winning work local Healthwatch have been doing. 

Read about the award winners projects


Presentations from the day

Download the presentations from the following sessions:

  • Representation of people and communities
  • ICS and Healthwatch collaborating
  • Academic study of Healthwatch in action
  • Policy briefing on social care
  • Supporting volunteers in the new health and social care landscape
  • How to listen to people and communities at a system level
Presentations from day three

Day four

The final day of the conference included a debate about our role in public health and an overview of net steps following Healthwatch Week.  

Public health: The long-term view

Delegates debated the need to raise the profile of public health.  The three takeaways from the session included: 

  1. The concern that the NHS is too focused on meeting the immediate needs of people who need support rather than proactively addressing the causes of illness, such as inequalities and the social determinants of health.
  2. We can help prevent more illness by supporting our communities to speak up about the barriers to access and inequalities they face and make sure that their experiences continue to be heard once people are using services.
  3. The reformed NHS provides an opportunity to address public health issues, but Integrated Care Systems needs to be genuinely inclusive of other sectors for this to happen. We need to see an equal partnership between healthcare, social care and public health to see an actual transition from treatment to prevention. 

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.

Takeaways from other sessions

Using our new Healthwatch brand

Consistently using the new Healthwatch tone of voice and personality takes practice but will help you grab people's attention, keep them interested and build trust. Tips to help you write like Healthwatch include:

  • Speak to the reader
  • Keep copy short, sharp and write in an active tone
  • Use plain English and cut unnecessary information
  • Write with specific personality points in mind

Turning evidence into change: Stakeholder influencing

Local Healthwatch are currently spending a lot of time influencing ICSs and it is not yet clear what the impact of this influencing is. However, we also sit on boards and committees such as Health and Wellbeing boards and this can lead to a lot of impact, helping to build relationships with local stakeholders and ensuring the Healthwatch voice is heard.

Working together: CQC, NICE and Healthwatch England

We are all aligned on our strategy to prioritise tackling health inequalities in our work. This gives us the opportunity to collaborate more, particularly in targeting seldom heard communities and making it as easy as possible for these communities to talk to us. Demonstrating the outcomes of our work will be key to demonstrating success in this new strategy – and all three organisations are looking at new ways of ‘closing the loop’ and showing people the impact their feedback has had.  

Watch the recording of this session on YouTube.


Presentations from the day

Download the presentations from the following sessions:

  • Public health long term view
Presentations from day four

Have your say on Healthwatch Week 

We want to hear your thoughts on Healthwatch - what went well and what could be improved. Please take five minutes to complete our short, confidential survey. 

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