Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Messenger survives shooting

I spent much of yesterday at two consultative meetings on the reorganisation of Community Health Councils; one in Pembrokeshire and the other in Carmarthenshire.

The Pembrokeshire meeting was by far the better attended; not just in terms of numbers, but also in terms of people from outside the CHC itself, representing the public and a range of other groups. It was also the most fiery – there were times when I began to wonder whether the civil servant sent to explain the Assembly Government's proposals and listen to the views expressed would escape with his life. But, in fairness to him, he was only the messenger.

There is real concern in the county - mirrored in Carmarthenshire, although one has to say rather less forcibly expressed – about what looks like a more centralised and less locally accountable new structure for the CHCs. And it's entirely understandable. Pembrokeshire CHC was right at the heart of the battle against the closure of Withybush Hospital in 2006/2007, and the feeling locally is certainly that a more centralised structure would not stand up for local interests in the same way.

The Health Minister, Edwina Hart, clearly feels that the current structure is not working as she would like it to operate, and will be even less fit for purpose in the new NHS structure with a reduced number of Health Boards and the abolition of the Health Trusts. But what is currently proposed simply won't do in the eyes of local people.

There are alternatives, such as a looser federation which maintains the current county identity but allows the three CHCs in the Dyfed area to come together to express a common view as well. I very much hope that the Minister will listen carefully to the views expressed locally, and change the proposal as a result of the representations received.

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