On 7 March 2011, the Department of Health (DH) sent a letter from David Behan, Director General Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships; and Joan Saddler, National Director Public and Patient Affairs to all local authorities concerning Local HealthWatch pathfinders in 2011-12.

The NHS White Paper, Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS, set out the Government's plans to turn Local Involvement Networks (LINks) into Local HealthWatch organisations, but with additional functions as set out in the Health and Social Care Bill 2011.The Bill provides for local authorities to commission Local HealthWatch organisations to:  

  • provide information and advice to enable people to make choices about health and social care;
  • provide advocacy services;
  • make recommendations to the Care Quality Commission; and
  • sit on health and well-being boards.

Local HealthWatches are due to be introduced in 2012.

The letter published by the DH urges local authorities to prepare for the transition from LINks to Local HealthWatches. It also invites proposals from local authorities wanting to become HealthWatch pathfinders and their plans for developing Local HealthWatch organisations.

The letter sets out the Government's intention to establish a network of action and learning sets, involving all LINks to assist them in evolving into Local HealthWatch organisations and to provide support pathfinders during 2011-12. Proposals should be emailed by 12 May 2011 to: Kasey.Chan@dh.gsi.gov.uk.