Following a proposal to close Edward Bolitho House, a psycho-geriatric unit in Penzance, in the Spring of 1996, the concerted local campaign which ensued resulted in the reversal of the proposal.
One of the leading campaigners at that time talked with the then Mayor of Penzance about the notion of forming a watchdog group to monitor all aspects of local NHS provision. The hope was that local people could work pro-actively with health planners rather than simply react to decisions already made.
Thus was the idea of West Cornwall HealthWatch born, and an inaugural meeting in January 1997 formally established the group.
The two original visionaries became active members of the West Cornwall HealthWatch committee. In the years which followed, West Cornwall HealthWatch has become widely recognised and respected, not only by the local community and its leaders, but also by health managers and professionals, politicians locally and nationwide; and its opinions on health issues are frequently sought.
West Cornwall HealthWatch was the first to raise the issue of rural funding for health services. It organised marches in Penzance, Truro and London; a mass letter-writing campaign to Frank Dobson; and a Candlelit Vigil at Epiphany - all part of the campaign against hospital closures in the late 1990. It was one of the groups which brought pressure to hear on the Cornwall Community Health Council, resulting in their blocking of the Health Authority proposals for cuts; and on the Government, which led eventually to the historic decision by the Secretary of State in 1998 to retain four Cornish community hospitalss.
Campaigns and Achievements
The last five years
2015/16. Held a health hustings event for the public before the 2015 General Election for all propective candidates. Campaigned against privatisation of Adult Community health services. Campaigned for re-provision of services previously provided by Poltair hospital. Campaigned to retain Poltair charitable funds in West Cornwall.
2014/15. Campaigned to retain locally all the services provided by Poltair hospital. Campaigned against further privatisation at RCHT - hotel services, pathology, IT and sterile services. Engaged about reprovision of the Out of Hours service.
2013/14. Campaigned to have the Choose and Book telephone booking script amended to inform public of nearest appointment as well as first appointment. Launched a Choose it, Use it or Loose it campaign to encourage the public to choose the NHS rather than the private sector. Still campaigning for Poltair Hospital.
2012/13. Campaigned against the closure of Poltair Community Hospital
2011/12. WCHW joined forces with Hands off our Hospital Group to protect West Cornwall Hospital by having a demonstration which linked hands around the perimeter of the hospital. We supported the setting up of an Urgent Care Centre at West Cornwall Hospital.
West Cornwall HealthWatch has been invited to, or has successfully requested, many meetings with health authorities and Trust executives, local and national political figures, and the Department of Health. Regularly attend and ask questions at the NHS Kernow, RCHT board meetings and the Council adult health and social services overview and scrutiny meetings.
West Cornwall HealthWatch has a high profile in the press and media especially over its campaigns for the retention of essential health facilities and services and now has a monthly column in the Cornishman newspaper.
West Cornwall HealthWatch has over 1000 registered Supporters, and it enjoys recognition, backing and when required financial support from town and parish councils locally
West Cornwall HealthWatch has written a number of significant reports, notably 'The People's Option on the Future of West Cornwall Hospital" which was widely distributed, in March 2001 and in 2015/16 reports on the Living Well project, NHS Kernow's framework procurement document and an analysis of the Health and Social Care public survey.
West Cornwall HealthWatch works closely with sister organisations Health Initiative Cornwall and the Mayors Parlour Campaign Partnership, Hands off our Hospital, Keep our NHS public.
West Cornwall HealthWatch has a good working relationship with local Cornwall councillors, and with local MP. It is part of the West Cornwall Hospital Community Forum and the Penwith Integrated Care forum. It has also forged a relationship with Healthwatch Cornwall. Two of its committee members were elected as Foundation Trust Governors for the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.