Service Voucher and Customer Right to Choose Social and Healthcare Services
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  • 1. Sitra study trip Service Voucher and Customer Right to Choose Social and Healthcare Services Anna Walker: Member of Consumer Focus Board Introduction to Consumer Focus 21 May 2010
  • 2. Anna Walker – background note • Wide experience of regulation gained across government and regulatory authorities – Telecommunications – Energy – Agriculture – Water – Rail • From 2004 – 09 Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission
  • 3. What is Consumer Focus? • Created by an Act of Parliament – Non Departmental Public Body • 2008 merger of National Consumer Council, Postwatch and energywatch • Independent of government and industry • Able to work across all sectors of the economy • With particular responsibilities for energy and postal markets
  • 4. What do we look like • We have a devolved structure – Consumer Focus; Consumer Focus Scotland; Consumer Focus Wales; Consumer Focus Post (Northern Ireland) • Responsible to a UK Board • Around 180 staff with a core budget of £15 million • We do research, policy development and advocacy • We directly support consumers at risk of disconnection from energy supply • We are also home to the National Social Marketing Centre
  • 5. Our statutory functions • To represent the interests of consumers • Undertake research into areas of consumer detriment and welfare • To refer ‘supercomplaints’ to regulators requiring them to investigate areas of consumer detriment • Provide information and advice to help consumers and to improve standards of service • Use general powers of investigation to require regulators and companies to provide information • We must assist vulnerable energy or postal complainants and energy disconnection cases
  • 6. How are we funded
  • 7. Our Planning Process         Statutory*  Responsibilities Evidence  Public  Based  Services Priorities Detriment Value Trend Criteria for Work  Planning  Consumer  Advocacy  Impact Focus  Gap Horizon  2009/10 Roll‐ Scanning over Work Our Work  * Consumers, Estate Agents and Redress Act 2007
  • 8. How do we act? • We campaign for a fair deal for consumers and to make markets and services work better – Energy prices and standards of service • We represent consumers across public policy, industry and regulatory debates – Reform of financial services • We report on consumer experience of the economy – Consumer research on copyright law and file-sharing • We help consumers make more informed choices – Web advice, working through the media and with advice agencies • Take action on behalf of vulnerable consumers – Our ‘Extra Help Unit’ stops consumers from being disconnected from their energy supply
  • 9. Consumer Priorities for Consumer Focus
  • 10. What drives our work “we will make a difference to people’s lives as consumers, particularly the most vulnerable, by championing policy changes that can help make people as powerful as the institutions that serve then. we will engage, inform and support consumers to act. Where they cannot act for themselves, we will act for them by working to improve the performance of those who serve them.”
  • 11. Our priority areas • Public and Community Services – Engage consumer experience to get more effective and efficient services • Building service delivery around the user experience • ‘Community levers ‘ how can local communities engage without being asked? – How good are public services at customer service • Jobcentre Plus and the personalisation of service delivery • Police and responding to citizen complaints • For vulnerable and disadvantaged consumers – Articulate the real experience of consumers in debt – Provide expert knowledge to front line advice agencies – Challenge the poverty premium where the poor pay more for essential goods and services.
  • 12. Our priority areas • Energy – Keeping companies honest • Challenge assumptions about price • Monitor standards of service • Refer poor behaviour to regulators – Consumers and the low carbon transition • Make sure costs are fairly distributed • Contribute to the design of energy efficiency programmes • Help consumers understand the changes – Protecting the most vulnerable • Drive fuel poverty initiatives • Work with regulator to improve standards of debt management • Extra help unit
  • 13. Our priority areas • Post and Post Offices – Better value and service from Royal Mail – A modern post office network that people can access, want to use and are happy with their – post office as a community hub for banking and access to government services • Financial Services – Reform of regulatory regime – Promote the interests of those neglected by mainstream banking
  • 14. Our recent impact • Directgov - online access to public services – Created a community of online users to improve the government’s information and services web portal • Savings market ‘supercomplaint’ – Referred the ‘cash ISA’ market to the Office of Fair Trading • Energy debt and disconnection – A joint review of the performance of energy supplier in relation to energy debt with clear recommendations for improvement • Proposals for a community bank in Post Offices – Welcome for our proposals for banking products tailored to the needs of low income post office customers • Stand up for consumers on copyright – Working with regulator to protect consumers threatened with having their broadband cut off for copyright infringement
  • 15. HEALTH CARE AND SOCIAL CARE VERY DIFFERENT IN THE UK •Healthcare : largely public money •Social care : - debate on funding - much less money - more self financing •Healthcare : patient choice •Social care : some vouchers ? In healthcare for long term conditions
  • 16. Independent healthcare regulation in UK  Long tradition of professional regulation But this of individuals  Late 1990s  Recognition that healthcare requires systems for delivery.  Public enquiry into deaths of children from heart surgery in Bristol: quality of care issue.  Concerns about access to care.  Led to establishment of an independent regulator.
  • 17. Against a Background of General Healthcare Reform  Huge additional finance since 2009  £47 billion → £120 billion approx. 9% of GDP.  Moves towards a less centralized healthcare system.  Determination to improve access to healthcare.  Commissioner/provider split.  More of a role for the private sector.
  • 18. Legal Framework • All healthcare: o Now has to be registered o And meet government standards. • Public Sector (National Health Service) also:  public annual ratings: o Excellent, Good, Fair, Weak.  Targets  National Quality Board to look at standards  New government : full economic regulator.
  • 19. The overall approach  A regulatory system based on risk.  Emphasis on hospital’s responsibility:  Self assessment against standards.  We checked taking account of:  All available information  Views of local government  Patients’ / staff views: major surveys.  Measuring what is important to:  Doctors  Patients.  Aim to encourage improvement.
  • 20. Areas covered by assessment: • Standards - covering, e.g. o Safety o Public health o Clinical governance. • Targets - mainly for access o Accident and emergency o Waiting time for operations o Cancer treatment o Choice issues. • “Patient Pathways” - between organizations o Heart disease o Maternity service
  • 21. Investigations  In depth look at individual organizations.  Approx. 100 concerns raised with Healthcare Commission per annum.  We looked at : e.g. o Infection control o Maternity services o Mental health/learning disabilities.  17 investigations over 5 years.  But effect of investigations was major.
  • 22. Handling of national concerns:  Hospital associated infections  High in UK Public Sector  Government asked for annual in depth inspections of every hospital  We looked at processes and outcomes  This resulted in tougher standards  And real reductions in infection rates.
  • 23. Information  It is very powerful  We used it for comparisons  The right information has to be collected  On a uniform basis  And published so it can be understood  It ensured we did our job properly!  Identification of deaths in Mid Staffs  Crucial for patient choice
  • 24. Conclusions  Independent healthcare regulation of systems is comparatively new in the UK.  It has proved its worth.  It covers quality, safety and access.  All healthcare organizations have to be registered and meet general standards and targets for access.  We looked at both processes and outcomes.  And our aim was to encourage improvement.  In depth investigations into areas of concern were also very important.  Collection and publication of comparative informative is a very powerful tool for patient choice.
  • 25. Aim Better health and better healthcare for everyone
  • 26. Anna Walker, Vice Chair, Consumer Focus 21 May 2010