Move to replace CHC slammed
Don’t scrap independent patients’ watchdog and replace it with a ‘toothless hamster’ – plea
A PLAN to abolish North Wales’ only patient-led watchdog has been branded a ‘backward step’ that could leave patients without a voice.
The Welsh Government is currently consulting on a number of proposals, which includes intergrating health and social care and replacing Community Health Councils with a new body mirroring the Scottish Health Council – which has been described by critics as a “toothless hamster”.
The proposals have brought a storm of protest, with politicians and patients claiming North Wales Community Health Council (CHC) is the most effective way to get redress from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which remains in special measures.
The CHC provides a free, independent, confidential, non-legal and client-led advocacy service to help patients, carers or relatives get answers when things go wrong.
Plaid Cymru AM Llyr Gruffydd said the Welsh Government’s proposed changes were a “backward step”.
He said: “Having met with North Wales CHC chair Jackie Allen and chief executive Geoff Ryall-Harvey, I’m very concerned the Welsh Government is attempting to stifle an independent patients’ voice.
“The consultation states the Welsh Government is looking at a single centralised body, similar to that in Scotland.
He added the scrapping of CHCs in England was something leading politicians, such as Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, now regretted.
The health board has a statutory duty to consult CHCs about service changes and the CHC can conduct unannounced visits to monitor services and quality.
One person grateful for its help was Hilda Foxall from Kinmel Bay, who had concerns about the treatment of her husband, Ron, at the Bryn Hesketh mental health unit at Colwyn Bay.
Ron, 72, suffered from Alzheimer’s and Mrs Foxall cared for him at home for six years.
When she needed an operation, she asked for some respite care for her husband of 49 years.
He was taken to Bryn Hesketh on March 13, 2015 but, after developing severe kidney problems and sepsis, he died on July 2 that year.
She enlisted the help of the CHC to tackle the health board over concerns she had about his care, and said the way they helped her organise her complaint at the most traumatic of times was invaluable.
“Emily Bacon, my advocate, helped me get my complaint in order and she has been absolutely fabulous,” said Mrs Foxall.
“She was with me all the way through my complaint.
“Without her and without the CHC I wouldn’t have got any resolution.
“If they get rid of it, will it just be another call centre in Cardiff we have to contact if we need help – and lose that personal touch?”
A spokesman for the health board said: “We value the role of the CHC and its input in shaping and improving the standards of the services we provide.
“The CHC provide constructive challenge to the Health Board in most aspects of our service planning and delivery. We have a good working relationship with the CHC and we work in partnership with them.”
The Welsh Government has been approached for comment.
To contribute to the consultation, which is open until September 29, visit consultations.gov.wales/consultations/services-fitfuture.
Llyr Gruffydd AM