New Healthwatch Camden boss wants to tackle health inequality and be ‘powerful voice for patients’

Matthew Parris, the new director of Healthwatch Camden. Picture: Healthwatch Camden

Matthew Parris, the new director of Healthwatch Camden. Picture: Healthwatch Camden - Credit: Archant

The new director of Healthwatch Camden – the organisation designed to empower NHS patients in the borough, told this newspaper his priorities would be reacting to community concerns about young people’s mental health and helping people to speak up about health and social care injustices.

Matthew Parris, 34, who comes to Camden after five years running the Surrey branch of Healthwatch, said the organisation would be remain a voice for patients and would be seeking to help tackle health inequalities across the borough.

He told the Ham&High: "In Camden one of the things I have come across in particular is that childhood obesity is proportionally much higher in deprived communities. That's just one example, but there's deficit in life expectancy of 10 years across the borough."

He added that addressing structural public health issues like this were part of Healthwatch's purpose.

"This is huge. We really need to look at how we change it and how we can help services better understand these communities," he said.

Healthwatch nationally was set up in 2013 during the fall-out from the Mid Staffs NHS scandal - its primary purpose was to encourage healthcare patients to use their voice when things went wrong.

Matthew said this was part of his mission in Camden. He said: "It's about voice, choice and change.

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"The key issue is that when things go wrong, people often don't tell the services they are using, for all sorts of reasons.

"We are there to better understand services and provide a powerful voice for the pople who don't complain. And If people have a complaint they want to make, they can be supported."

His aim for the next few months is to take the pulse of healthcare in Camden. Matthew explained work was ongoing to evaluate the progress of the Royal Free Hospital's new system for arranging blood tests. He also explained it was important to make sure people know about Healthwatch, and the help it can provide.

He said a successful year would have seen the organisation "raise awarness of some of the most serious issues faced by communities in Camden" by working in collaboration across the borough.