Healthwatch, the patients’ watchdog, is ‘toothless’ and needs to be replaced with a tougher regime, Unite, the country’s largest union, said today (Tuesday 4 February) on the eve of the first anniversary of the Francis report into the Mid Staffs scandal.
Unite, which has 100,000 members in the health service, said that health secretary Jeremy Hunt and his ministers have been too busy privatising the NHS in the last 12 months, when they should have been boosting public confidence in the ability of ‘whistleblowers’ to raise concerns about patient safety.
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “The last 12 months have been a wasted opportunity by Jeremy Hunt to start a cultural renewal in the health service by upgrading the level of public scrutiny.
“Healthwatch, the so-called patients’ watchdog, is a toothless tiger – we need to return to the old system similar to that of the community health councils (CHCs) which had real clout to expose alleged failings in the provision of patient care.
“Hunt and his coalition colleagues have been too busy privatising the health service – 70 per cent of NHS contracts awarded since last April have gone to the private sector - to tackle the public’s deep concern which flowed from the Francis report.”
Last year, Unite had welcomed the Francis report, particularly the importance of whistleblowing on poor practice; the regulation of healthcare support workers; and hiding information about poor care becoming a criminal offence.
In the wake of the report, Unite called for all NHS institutions to have an independent ‘patient safety officer’, so staff and patients could raise concerns without reprisal, and the setting up of a national intelligence unit to co-ordinate information about problematic trusts.
Rachael Maskell said: “We repeat our call today for the introduction of independent ‘patient safety officers’ and the creation of a national intelligence agency.”
Unite is issuing two books within the next month to help members with issues relating to patient care – 'Record Keeping and Documentation: A guide for health professionals', and 'Putting Patients First'.
For further information please contact Rachael Maskell on 07768 693933 and/or Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
Unite’s response to the Francis Report.
Twitter: @unitetheunion Facebook: unitetheunion1
Notes to editors:
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.