Many changes are being made to the way health and social care services are being provided both locally and nationally. The government is therefore keen that the public has information, advice and support to help them understand how they can choose and access health and social care services.

In March 2012, the government introduced a new law (Health and Social Care Act 2012) requiring each local authority area to set up a new organisation called Healthwatch by April 2013. The government made funding available to local authorities to help them to do this.

At a national level, the government also set up Healthwatch England. This is a statutory committee of the Care Quality Commission (CQC) - the organisation that checks whether hospitals and healthcare services, dental and GP practices, care homes and care services are meeting government standards. Healthwatch England will work to ensure the views and experiences of people who use health and social care services across the country can influence national policy, advice and guidance.

At a local level, Healthwatch provides information and advice to Islanders about health and social care services, signpost people to services -so they understand the choice of care available - and involve people to help improve and shape these services in the future.

It effectively acts as a consumer champion, making the views and experiences of the local community known to the people making decisions about these services, both locally and nationally. It has replaced the Island's Local Involvement Network (otherwise known as LINk) which has performed a similar role for the past few years.

Healthwatch Isle of Wight launched on the Island on 1 April 2013. For more details visit the Healthwatch Isle of Wight website.