People of Leeds get new health champion: out with the old and in with the … old

healthwatchI’m not sure they get it yet, do they?

There’s this new organisation they’ve just set up to be the independent voice of us citizens/patients/consumers when it comes to everything about health and care services in Leeds.

They call it Healthwatch. Everyone got one in April – all over the country.

On the face of it, it might have been OK.

What wouldn’t be to like about a truly independent organisation whose sole function is to get OUR views (constructive, critical, complaining, congratulatory) across to the people who design, commission and run health and care services in Leeds – the clinical commissioning groups, the community healthcare trusts, the hospitals and, now more than ever, the council.

Someone we can trust to challenge the health powers-that-be on our behalf when it’s necessary, and to speak up loud and clear for us at the meetings of the Best City Leadership Network Health and Wellbeing Board (I kid you not).


leedslnkIn Leeds they’ve been working on setting up our Healthwatch (we couldn’t do it for ourselves, obvs) for the past 15 months.

They thought at the start about handing the new service over to the people who had been doing the “patients’ champion” job in Leeds up to now, Leeds LINk.

But when they asked around, everyone that mattered said LINk wasn’t much cop and wouldn’t be up to the task.

So they put Healthwatch Leeds out to tender, the contract got awarded to a consortium of four independent organisations, and a part-time, independent chair was appointed …

Which just left them to hire someone independent to run this new, independent organisation – an independent director. (am I labouring the independence thing?)

Guess who they appointed …

Leeds-City-CouncilAnyway, getting the right person in* was a great opportunity to send a clear message to us citizens/patients/consumers (whatever they’re calling us these days) that the new organisation wasn’t going to be the same old, same old.

And a clear message to our local health service providers (the council included) that Healthwatch wasn’t going to be part of any business as usual between long-standing partners and chums in the Leeds health leadership network.

So, guess who they appointed to be our champion?

A senior employee of the council!

THE senior council officer who for the last 15 months has been in charge of (guess what?) commissioning the Healthwatch service in Leeds.

A senior officer who used to be on the steering group of LINk, the organisation that was deemed not up to doing this new job of independent health champion.

A most usual suspect. One of the gang. An insider’s insider.

Not suggesting there’s anything dodgy going on, but … but …

It looks and feels rubbish.

They just don’t get it, do they?


(* no idea which bright sparks were on the interviewing panel. Anyone know?)


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12 Responses to People of Leeds get new health champion: out with the old and in with the … old

  1. Sarah Covell says:

    And i thought fire and rescue were useless. Talk about jobs for the boys!

  2. Philip Brennan says:

    Good one. Bet those genius’s at Leeds Initiative were involved….

    • As the Pythons used to say: the Leeds Initiative has passed on, is no more, has ceased to be, is a stiff, bereft of life, resting in peace … It is an ex-Initiative. (Been replaced by the Best City Leadership Network – same usual suspects/geniuses under a snappy new name)

  3. We’re really glad you have asked these concerns publicly, and we have responded by answering in public. As our values state ( – to be trusted, we must be open and transparent in everything we do – and the appointment of our Director is no exception to this.

    Rather than get into a point by point commentary on what you’ve written – we’ll just try and fill in some of the gaps. Most importantly – we won’t spin it, or offer commentary – we’ll leave it to you and the readers to decide what you think.

    The appointment panel was made up of
    5 people who or who care for people who use health and social care services in Leeds
    A senior representative from Children’s Services (LCC)
    A senior manager from Leeds Involving People (one of the consortium partners)
    A board member from Healthwatch England
    The selection panel was chaired by the Chair of Healthwatch Leeds

    (We’ve not named names because not all the citizens with experience of using services have given their consent to be named publicly.)

    We are very pleased to have an experienced team delivering the work of Healthwatch Leeds – but they are not the whole story. It is important to remember who will set our plan of action: the Board. Our work plan will be set and agreed by the Board. We will be recruiting to our Board very soon, and have an explicit strategy of trying to find voices which are both independent, and also different from those usually heard within the System.

    If you want to help us ensure Healthwatch Leeds is not just “business as usual”, we encourage you to make sure our board – where the real power of Healthwatch Leeds is located – is populated by by citizens who know how to hold power to account, and who know how to include and value difference. If you’re interested in helping us choose the right people, or think you are one of those people – please get in touch –

    • Cheers for that.

      Afraid we’re no further forward. From your point of view everything is, of course, fine: the right panel using the right process got the right result, and now it’s time for us all to move on and help you find independent voices for your organisation.

      If you’d asked earlier we could have done that with the appointment of your director!

  4. stephengriso says:

    Isn’t one of the question how the ‘5 people who or who care for people who use health and social care services in Leeds’ were selected? Where was the post advertised? How many applications were received? Is Healthwatch Leeds an open membership organisation? The website is silent on this issue. If new board members are appointed solely by existing board members and there isn’t any open membership structure then isn’t all self appointed? Why wasn’t the (new?) board in place before recruitment which I understand has happened elsewhere? Surely the ‘5 people..’ should be asked if they are willing to have their names published and if not then why are they involved as they are performing a public role?

  5. Claire says:

    I wanted to contribute to this debate, as I’m the newly appointed Vice-Chair of Healthwatch Leeds. HWL is a values-based organisation, and the recruitment process, reflects that. The candidate that emerged as the best candidate for this role does indeed have a track record locally that is based in the statutory sector. This appointment was checked to ensure good governance, by Dennis Holmes of Leeds City Council, I believe.

    Personally, I think the organisation will make great use of those skills honed in the organisations we’re going to have to spend a lot of time negotiating with, but I also feel that as an organisation, HWL now have to think about how we can balance the skills of our Director with more grassroots and community-led voices, and we may have to review our recruitment process to ensure that those candidates come through in the other appointments that will be made, especially for members of our Board.

    I plan to demonstrate our values by how we relate with people in the city, and HWL want to make it as easy as possible to get involved and fit it in around your busy lives. To this end, there will be events coming up soon where you can find out more, and we will be appointing the rest of the Board through drawing lots from the pool of people who volunteer for this job.

    I would urge anyone who has something to say about Health and Social Care in Leeds to get involved, you can email the if you want more information. You can email me about my work at HWL on, lets continue the conversation about making Leeds health and social care services the best health and social care services in the country.

    • Hi Clare, just clocked that you said “we will be appointing the rest of the board through drawing lots from the pool of people who volunteer for this job”. Sounds interesting. Anywhere we can go and read how this is going to work – from attracting the volunteers to tenure etc

  6. stephengriso says:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment.

    My fundamental point is who has appointed the current Board? Surely the best procedure is to have a membership based organisation – after an appropriate time to encourage people to get involved – and then an election of the Board?

    Alternatively if its is felt essential that to start with at least that some of the Board is appointed that at least some board members are appointed by an election process? While the rationale for a lots based selection process sounds eminently fair, wouldn’t an election process be better?

    In my post today arrived an election form to vote for someone to be a Members’ Trustee of the pension scheme of which I am a member – members look at what the candidates have said about themselves and then vote on a Single Transferable Vote basis…

  7. I’m not sure it matters much any more who appointed the board members so far and set up the processes and panels for those appointments and that of the director. It’s literally not our business. Still, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next.

  8. Claire says:

    Hello again! I know the idea of selecting the rest of our Board, and the question about why we have chosen not to be a membership organisation have been important in this thread, so I blogged about these issues and you can read about them here:

    Do feel free to continue the conversation here, or on my blog, or by emailing HWLeeds, we’re really glad that people in Leeds are talking about and engaging with our new organisation!.

  9. mike parks says:

    Pity the ‘new organisation’ did not think to tell ALL the volunteers from the old Link about the recent meeting in Headingley. Poor Comms = disillusioned volunteers. I’m still considering whether to stay or go, as the agenda is set and even being in the organisation if your face doesn’t fit, there won’t be any change. Where’s the lead from Touchstone?

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