Agenda item

Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire


The Committee considered a report of Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire which provided an update on their work of the previous 12 months. A copy of the report, marked ‘Agenda Item 9’ is filed with these minutes.


The Committee welcomed to the meeting for this item Hardip Chohan, Head of Operations and Services, Voluntary Action LeicesterShire.


Arising from discussions the following points were noted:


(i)           It had originally been hoped that there could be one Healthwatch organisation covering Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland but Rutland had decided to stand alone. The Healthwatch service for Leicester and Leicestershire had previously been carried out by an organisation called Engaging Communities Solutions (ECS). In 2023 the contract was awarded to Voluntary Action LeicesterShire (VAL) and three members of staff from ECS had moved to VAL to carry out the Healthwatch work. VAL had nearly completed the first year of a three year contract.


(ii)         Healthwatch aimed to be a critical friend to the health services and pursue a collaborative approach aligned with local priorities and plans. Healthwatch tended to carry out research into the smaller issues with health services which did not get as much attention as other well-known issues.


(iii)        Members questioned whether the activities that Healthwatch undertook were any different to those undertaken by other bodies such as Patient Participation Groups (PPGs) or even the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee itself. Members raised concerns that whilst Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire were gathering data and evidence around people’s experiences of health services, there was no evidence that the work of Healthwatch actually had an impact and led to changes and improvements to services. Members raised concerns that the research carried out by Healthwatch lacked depth and the numbers of people interviewed by Healthwatch were too small to have any meaningful value. It was questioned whether Healthwatch was value for money.


(iv)       Members were reminded that Healthwatch had Enter and View powers which enabled them to visit premises, look at the way health services were being provided there and make recommendations based on what they had found. There was a team of 18 volunteers that carried out this work. It was clarified that the premises chosen to visit by Healthwatch were usually ones where intelligence had already been received about the quality of the services there. Members questioned whether the recommendations made by Healthwatch were acted upon by health organisations, and if not, whether Healthwatch continued to lobby those organisations until changes were made. In response to the concerns raised by the Committee some reassurance was given that the work of Healthwatch did have a positive impact. A report could be brought to a future meeting of the Committee providing further detail. It was also explained that the work of Healthwatch was being reviewed to ascertain areas of good practice and where improvements could be made.


(v)         Members suggested that as the commissioners of the service, Leicestershire County Council should be setting Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire smart targets. In response reassurance was given that targets were being worked on by Healthwatch and Leicestershire County Council.


(vi)       Members queried whether VAL would have been aware of the issues with Healthwatch had the Committee not drawn attention to them. In response it was explained that VAL welcomed the feedback, had been aware of some of the issues and had been conducting a review with a view to making improvements to the service provided by Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire. VAL was of the view that Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire did carry out good quality work but acknowledged that the way the work was presented could be improved.




(a)        That the update on the work of Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire over the previous 12 months be noted with concern;


(b)        That the Cabinet Lead Member for Health be requested to monitor performance of the Healthwatch contract;


(c)         That Healthwatch Leicester and Leicestershire be requested to provide a further report for a future meeting of the Committee providing more detail regarding the impact of the work carried out by Healthwatch on health services in Leicestershire.


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