Assembly to debate future of Welsh NHS patient watchdog

Assembly Members will today (20/09) debate the future of the Welsh NHS’ patient watchdog.

A Welsh Government White Paper – Services Fit For the Future – seeks to replace Wales’ seven Community Health Councils (CHCs) with a unified national body.

A Welsh Conservative motion (see Notes) is calling for a consultation on the White Paper’s proposals to be extended to give CHCs the opportunity to draw up counterproposals.

They accuse Labour Ministers of failing to properly engage with CHCs, who have not been invited by Welsh Government to give their views to the consultation.

It follows accusations from Mark Isherwood AM – Welsh Conservative Shadow Secretary for Communities – that the consultation has been a “cosmetic exercise”.

A three-month consultation was launched at the end of June, and a series of eight focus groups are being held until 29 September.

But a Facebook post, found by Welsh Conservatives, revealed that those leading the consultation’s engagement events were still looking for venues and participants for focus groups on 2 September, with just over three weeks to go until the consultations ends.

The process has also come under criticism from the director of the Consultation Institute (TCI), who called the focus groups “belated”, adding that “so far, there has not been sufficient debate.”

The Scottish model of patient representation, on which Welsh Government is basing their new proposals, has previously been described by the Scottish Parliament as a “toothless hamster.”

Mark Isherwood AM said: “Welsh Government has presided over significant failures within the Welsh NHS since devolution, from staffing pressures and spiralling waits to a groundswell in complaints.

“And whether it’s moving the goalposts on ambulance response targets or publishing partial data, nearly two decades of Labour rule has showed us that they have a propensity for weakening scrutiny.

“It is therefore important that strong and independent representation through Community Health Councils (CHCs) is not only maintained, but enhanced.

“Thus far, the Welsh Government’s consultation has not sufficiently involved CHCs in the debate, to the extent that they have even been excluded from public events.

“Today’s debate offers Members from across the Assembly the opportunity to give CHCs the opportunity to have a say in their future, which they have hitherto been denied.”

Angela Burns AM, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Secretary, said:

“A consultation done properly is a consultation which seeks the views of all stakeholders and gives all sides of the debate a fair opportunity to feed into the process.

“Anything less than this renders the consultation illegitimate and undemocratic.

“Today, Members will have the opportunity to say ‘no’ to the Welsh Government’s rubber-stamping exercise, which if allowed to continue would effectively abolish an indispensable mechanism of government scrutiny.”

/Ends

Notes to Editors:

Debate motion:

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

  1. Notes the Welsh Government’s White Paper – Services Fit For the Future – which seeks to abolish Community Health Councils in Wales;
  2. Recognises the important role Community Health Councils have played in delivering independent public service accountability and providing a strong voice for patients in Wales;
  3. Believes that the White Paper proposals will weaken the voice of patients and communities and reduce scrutiny of the Welsh Government and Health Boards;
  4. Calls on the Welsh Government to:
  1. extend the consultation period on the White Paper following its failure to properly engage with Community Health Councils, patients and the Welsh public and
  2. work more constructively with Community Health Councils on future proposals for a new people’s voice body