There are three things which have to consistently happen to ensure the standard of health and care services across our region, and the UK, continually improve.

Firstly, we must always listen to people and ensure an independent voice is heard over health care standards.

Patients and their loved ones are the people who experience services first hand. They know where health and care providers succeed, and they also know where they fall short.

Secondly, we must always ensure health and care providers are subject to continued scrutiny and inspection. Never should a ‘behind closed doors’ culture be allowed to develop. Openness and transparency are key to improving patient trust.

Thirdly, health and care provision should always be judged with perspective, and with the end goal of continued service improvement in mind.

It is always a highly-emotive issue for families, especially when things go wrong, but it should never simply become a blame game. Health and care providers should be praised when they succeed, but equally held to account when they fail.

When this approach is taken, lessons can always be learned and services improved. Examples of best practice should be shared out across the UK, examples of poor care tackled and prevented from happening again.

This is why, at a time when unfortunately we have seen many media reports relating to poor standards of care- particularly in care homes – I am very proud of the roles I play within two organisations which continually place patient care at the heart of their work.

As chairman of Healthwatch Hull, I am part of a group which truly does provide that much-needed independent voice. Healthwatch aims to help shape, challenge and improve services by talking and listening to people from every part of the community.

We are fully aware that, in many circumstances, relatives may worry that raising concerns over treatment could have an impact on the future care of their loved ones. Healthwatch gives them an alternative route through which to raise their concerns, knowing they will be addressed.

Equally, in my role as a non-executive chairman of medical negligence specialists Hudgell Solicitors, I see the valued role specialist lawyers play in ensuring incidents of sub-standard care, or even abuse, are not allowed to be swept under the carpet and are fully investigated.

They help relatives find answers to questions when they have felt nobody has been listening, and ultimately highlight issues which are then addressed, with steps taken to prevent similar instances happening again.

With what seems to be an increasing number of cases in the media around care home neglect and abuse, it is important that all residents and their relatives know they have options, both in terms of having someone to open up to and share their concerns, and legally, should they feel the need.

Healthwatch are able to send trained representatives to enter and view premises where services are delivered, alert Healthwatch England, or the Care Quality Commission (CQC), where appropriate, to concerns about specific care providers, health or social care matters.

Hudgell Solicitors has a track record of fully investigating cases of medical negligence and sub-standard care, not only compensating those who have suffered, but crucially ensuring valuable lessons are learned, often resulting in changes being made to policies and procedures by the providers themselves.

The message is that people should not fear raising concerns, as nobody benefits at all.

Shout up, because you could make a positive difference not only for your loved one, but for many others too.

The Independent Complaints Advocacy (ICA) is a free service which can help you make a complaint about NHS services. In Hull this service is provided by Cloverleaf Advocacy who can be contacted on 0300 012 0421 or email