Move to re­place CHC slammed

Don’t scrap in­de­pen­dent pa­tients’ watch­dog and re­place it with a ‘tooth­less ham­ster’ – plea

Bangor Mail - - NEWS - Jez Hem­ming

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

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