A “people’s” watchdog will help tackle health inequalities and make sure patients are at the centre of decisions about their wellbeing.
That is the vision of Hannah Davies, the newly-appointed Chief Executive of Healthwatch Leeds.
Ms Davies has joined the city’s health and social care watchdog at a time when funding has been secured to pay for the work of the organisation for at least the next five years.
She said it is an exciting time to be involved after being appointed to replace Tanya Matilainen, who has retired.
Ms Davies said: “My vision for Healthwatch is where we can make the biggest impact.
“I’m really keen for it to feel like a people’s Healthwatch.
“Tanya did a great job in laying a really solid foundation.”
Based at the Old Fire Station in Gipton, Healthwatch has a team of 80 volunteers who represent patients. Ms Davis said the location in east Leeds was ideal. She said: “It’s an accessible building, which is really important for the work we do. Most importantly, it’s based here in a real community.”
Representing patients who feel let down by the system is a big part of the work of Healthwatch.
Ms Davies said: “It’s varied. Sometimes people have got a particular complaint and it’s about linking them with the right place to go. Healthwatch has an information and advice line for if people are lost in the system.”
Tackling wide variations in the health of the city’s population is also a top priority. Ms Davies said: “The city has made a commitment to improve the health of the poorest first.”
The powers of Healthwatch include “enter and view” visits at health and care facilities. Ms Davies said: “If we do reports there is a process of following it up with the organisations we work with and an expectation that the actions are worked through.”
Healthwatch is part of the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership, which brings different organisations together to plan for the future.
Ms Davies said Healthwatch would help make sure patients are involved in decisions about their care. She said: “Previously, we have been recipients of health services.
“Now there is more of a dialogue and a partnership between you and the care provider. From a Healthwatch perspective it’s about putting people at the centre of that.
“That’s what is exciting about Healthwatch. It’s that vehicle for people to have a strong voice in health and care.”
Hannah Davies previously worked for mental health provider Touchstone and more recently Forum Central, which represents voluntary sector organisations in the city.