NORTH Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on new Health Minister, Mark Drakeford, to ensure that the role of Community Health Councils is strengthened.
Speaking in an Assembly debate on the Role of Community Health Councils, Mr Isherwood noted that the Minister’s statement pledging to see through the controversial reorganisation of health services and hospitals across Wales had removed any pretence that the responsibility lies with Health Boards rather than Welsh Government policy, and urged the Minister to address the fact that the patient’s voice has been compromised by the Welsh Government.
He said: “This reorganisation has attracted huge opposition, and the patient’s voice should be heard, yet this Welsh Government follows the pattern set by its predecessors in proposing changes that could be used to further Community Health Council compliance with Welsh Government policy.
“Community Health Councils had been protecting patients’ rights in the NHS for over 28 years when the UK Labour Government abolished the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales, and all English Community Health Councils, on 1 December 2003. To its credit, the Welsh Government kept them in Wales. However, to its discredit, it has sought to tame and control them ever since.
“Speaking here in April 2010, I stated that the Welsh Government had compromised the patient’s voice through a micromanaged reorganisation of Community Health Councils. The then Minister for Health’s dismissal of concerns raised by Community Health Councils left them feeling ‘frustrated, disappointed and downright angry’. At the time, Community Health Councils in North Wales advised that the Minister’s changes would seriously inhibit the ability of Community Health Councils to represent patients and scrutinise local NHS services.
“To add insult to injury, the last Welsh Government, under this First Minister, scrapped the Independent Review forming the second stage of the complaints procedure, which ensured that complaints made by patients and relatives could be scrutinised properly.”
He added: “Presumably, failure to achieve Community Health Council compliance has led to the Welsh Government proposals now that could be used to bring them further into line. We seek assurances, but we also seek concrete measures to ensure that that cannot be the case.”