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Enabling ‘citizen voice’ in the English health and social care system: A national survey of the organizational structures, relationships and impacts of local Healthwatch in England

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Giulia Zoccatelli, Amit Desai, Graham Martin, Sally Brearley, Trevor Murrells, Glenn Robert

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1108-1117
Number of pages10
JournalHealth expectations : an international journal of public participation in health care and health policy
Issue number5
Early online date8 Jul 2020
Accepted/In press15 May 2020
E-pub ahead of print8 Jul 2020
PublishedOct 2020


King's Authors


Background: Local Healthwatch have been operating since 2013 as ‘consumer champions’ in health and social care in England. There is little evidence about how they operate and the daily practices through which they seek to represent citizen views and influence others. Objective: To explore (a) the current organizational arrangements, relationships and impact of local Healthwatch in England, and (b) to what extent do these vary across local Healthwatch organizations. Design: An online survey of all 150 local Healthwatch in England between December 2018 and January 2019. The survey comprised 47 questions and used a combination of closed- and open-response questions. Results: We received responses from 96 local Healthwatch (68% response rate). Most local Healthwatch reported that they are ‘independent’ organizations that only do Healthwatch-related work (58.3%) and are funded through a contract (79.2%). Budget cuts have affected four-fifths of local Healthwatch (79.3%) since 2013. Three-quarters (74%) of local Healthwatch currently receive funding external to that provided by their local authority for their Healthwatch functions. Most Healthwatch engage with only one CCG (56.3%), one mental health trust (82.3%) and one community health trust (62.5%), though 59.4% engage with more than one hospital trust. Healthwatch respondents overwhelmingly reported impacts that were local in nature. Conclusions: Geographical and historical factors, the quality and quantity of their relationships with stakeholders, and different funding arrangements all contribute to high variability in the structure and activities of local Healthwatch and to shaping the nature of their work and impact across England.

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