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25th April 2014

Watching Over You

Eye looking thorough magnifying glassOne of the new provisions under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which came into force last year, was to give powers to local Healthwatch organisations to visit health and social care services, and that would include independent and private units which are publicly funded. The National Survivor User Network has just produced a guide on how local Healthwatch organisations can work with local providers to improve mental health services.

Healthwatch powers

So what does the Act say about this new role:

  • First that they can represent people who use services.
  • They can provide an advocacy service to take on people’s complaints about services.
  • They can report any concerns which could be referred onto the Care Quality Commission.

This new guide is in many ways a guide for people undertaking visits to mental health provider units as part of their ‘visit and enter’ power. You can download the guide at:

Preparing for a visit

The guide includes some case studies which might be useful to staff on the receiving end of a visit. One particular case study about a privately run unit for people with dementia illustrates how an inspector prepares for a visit. I’ve highlighted some QCS policies that can guide staff in readiness for any Healthwatch visit:

  • Speaking to residents is an obvious way of finding out about the user experience. For people who lack capacity that can mean it is difficult to gain solid information, but lacking capacity in some areas doesn’t mean that the users’ views aren’t valid. Also there are other ways you can assess the user experience by observing the way staff talk to residents. The QCS Participation Policy and Procedure gives guidance on listening to users and families views.
  • Restraint is a key issue in mental health units. There’s some new guidance just published by the Government titled Positive and Proactive Care: reducing restrictive interventions.  Meanwhile visitors are going to be very mindful of de-escalation techniques and how staff can prevent restraint becoming necessary. The QCS De-escalation Policy and Procedure describes current thinking on this.
  • Home staff should not be waiting for outside agencies to come in and advocate for users. Visitors will be keen to see how advocacy services are offered. The QCS Advocacy Policy and Procedure gives guidance on getting an advocate.

Has your unit been visited by a local Healthwatch representative? It would be interesting to hear the outcome.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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