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Issue: 1192

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August17, 2000

Concern as local health watchdog is told it will soon be replaced

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T R $ by ROBERT INCE CONCERN is growing over the welfare of hospital patients from the South Sefton community after the Govern nient revealed it is to scrap the UK’s most influential health watchdog Community Health Councils. The NHS set up the regional councils in 1974 to act as a watchdog for hospital patients. Ever since they have success fully represented the interests of thou sands of patients by providing a confi dential and independent support service giving practical and emotional advice to those who wish to complain over care they, or relatives, have received. Now it is believed the service has been scrapped to reduce the increasing criticism aimed at the NHS, and could leave any patients who’ve been treated

negligently vulnerable. The axing of the councils comes as a result of radical new plans by the Gov ernment in favour of hospitals being allowed to regulate themselves. In its place, a Patients Advocacy and Liaison Service (PALS) staffed by hospital employees wifi be established and situ ated in hospital receptions. Liz Johnson, chief officer of South Sefton CHC which covers Fazakerley Hospital, said: “It seems the Govern ment is attempting to gag the very voice it wants to listen to. The CHC has no other interest other than to make things better and help patients. “We are all devastated by the Gov ernment’s decision to abolish CHCs. We believe this wifi be bad for patients, who wifi now have no independent rep resentation in the NHS.” She added: “The proposal to establish PALS in hospitals will leave patients with no independent advocacy and advice service. A service accountable to the hospital in which it is based fun damentally undermines its

impartiality.” It is believed patients are likely to be unwilling to complain about any negli gent care to staff in the hospitals where they have, or stifi are, receiving ongo ing treatment. The council has said it wifi be cam paigning hard over the next few months to ensure patients have the right to complain after the CHC’s demise. A specific date of closure hasn’t been announced but it is anticipated that it wifi be around March 2002, although some fear it wifi be sooner as staff leave and are not replaced. Manager of Sefton Advocacy Project John Cotcher backed the concerns of those from the CHC. “If the councils shut down we would do our best to support people but we could not provide the expert service the CHC can and it would put our workload up by 50%,” he said. • What do YOU think about this issue? write to us Let us know your views at the address on the letters page.

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CONCERNED • Liz Code: NA Johnson

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Star: Patients At Risk