AMs call for independent health watchdog amidst reforms



(Title Image: BBC Wales)

The Issue

The Welsh Government are in the process of abolishing and replacing Community Health Councils (CHCs). CHCs include representatives from local authorities, patients and other appointees and act as a “watchdog” in each local health board.

The reforms propose establishing a single, all-Wales body based largely on a controversial model in Scotland.

The Motion

To propose that the National Assembly for Wales:

  • Notes the Welsh Government’s White Paper – Services Fit for the Future (pdf) – which seeks to abolish CHCs in Wales.
  • Recognises the important role CHCs have played in delivering accountability and providing a voice for patients.
  • Believes the White Paper proposals will weaken the voice of patients and communities and reduce scrutiny of the Welsh Government and Health Boards.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to extend the consultation on the White Paper and work more constructively with CHCs on proposals for a new body.

Key Points

Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales)
For (the motion): CHCs hold health boards to account.

  • The proposals will weaken scrutiny and accountability of local health boards.
  • The single health watchdog in Scotland (which is what the Welsh Government are basing their proposal on) was ridiculed as a “toothless hamster” and doesn’t represent a body that’s independent of government.
  • CHCs have successfully acted in patient’s interests, including kick-starting investigations into mortality scandals at Betsi Cadwaladr health board and leading opposition to the closure of community hospitals in north Wales.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)
For: Supports reforms, but the proposals take away the voice of the patient.

  • The consultation is a “sham” and has been regarded as an oversight with a rush to cobble together focus groups ahead of the deadline.
  • Rejects the idea that we don’t need another body going into hospitals to inspect them, as Health Inspectorate Wales have been shown up during high-profile scandals.

Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
For

  • Scrapping CHCs would make it harder for health boards to meet targets for dealing with complaints.

Eluned Morgan AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales)
Against: Public have limited knowledge of what CHCs do.

  • There’s a need to change the system if there’s going to be proper integration between health & social care as CHCs can’t speak out on social care.
  • Many local people have no idea CHCs exist.
  • CHCs should be reformed and properly resourced.

Simon Thomas AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales)
For: Supports reform, but proposals lack detail.

  • There’s no mention of cross-border issues in the paper.
  • CHCs don’t oppose a national body but some form of local/regional representation should be maintained.
  • CHCs should be more representative of their communities; some people have been there for 20 years.

Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central)
For: Proposals lack detail.

  • There’s no detail on how the “new patient voice” would work.
  • Health systems should operate in the same way across the UK.

Welsh Government Response & Summing Up

Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth)

  • There’s been a long history of calls for CHC reform, going back to the Longley Review in 2012.
  • The Government are not proposing to remove patients’ voice, only reform of the existing process and have a single voice for patients across both health and social care.
  • The new all-Wales body, as proposed, would work at a national, regional and local level.
  • The consultation wasn’t a “sham” and has received over 700 responses; CHCs have been fully involved and produced their own joint paper.
  • It’s likely the new body will require a new law and would deal with cross-border issues.

Shadow Health Secretary, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W & S. Pembs)

  • The paper and consultation have been “rushed through”. It’s “been left to the last minute”.
  • It should’ve waited until a parliamentary review into health services had been completed.
  • “You’re going to make it (CHC replacement) a tiny, weeny weak voice and people….we represent….will suffer”.

Vote

The original motion (as outlined above) was rejected by 28 votes to 25.

Amendments to the original motion were passed noting the paper’s contents but also noting that the single health watchdog in Scotland wasn’t deemed independent enough from the government.