The work of Healthwatch Oxfordshire as the only independent health and social care watchdog in the county has been praised by the Oxfordshire County Council’s own influential Health Overview and Scrutiny committee, and yet the county council wants to cut our funding by £100,000 – nearly a third of our budget.
This is the option published by the county council on 27th October as part of the wider cuts it says are needed to achieve savings of £50m.
If it is approved by the council, this cut will mean that people in Oxfordshire will have less opportunity to comment through us on how hospitals, community health, mental health, primary care and social services are performing – to say whether you think they are good or whether they need improving.
During the past year, those who run the NHS and social care have made many changes for the better as a result of our surveys and reports, which highlighted your concerns. click here for details. Although in general, NHS and social services in Oxfordshire are superior to those in many parts of the country, your comments have still led to changes for the better in the way services have been delivered by all the major health and social care organisations in the county.
Our reports on this website are testament to that – particularly those dealing with access to GPs, hospital discharge procedures and dignity in care.
If the county council decides to cut our funding by one-third it means that it will be more difficult to get your views heard. We think that is wrong because our surveys show that people are more open with us than with the authorities. We are worried that a cut at this level will severely hamper our ability to carry out our statutory obligations as a local Healthwatch.
A cut of £100,000 will mean that we will not be able to carry out as many major surveys. It will mean we cannot keep up the close liaison with the many voluntary organisations who speak to us, give grants to communities who otherwise would not get heard, or arrange events where the public have the opportunity to speak directly to the senior officials who provide their services. It will mean we have to halve the amount of time we spend talking and listening to the general public.
Your opinion is important, particularly at this time when sweeping changes in health and social care are beginning to take effect. We are trying to persuade the county council that such a draconian cut in our finances, which come from central government, but are channelled through the county council, is against the interest of the general public who pay for NHS and social care through their taxes.
Please help us by contacting your MP and county councillor and ask them to let us continue to collect, coordinate and communicate your views and those of other people in your community. Please also support us by emailing Cllr Judith Heathcoat, who is the Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Services, firstname.lastname@example.org asking her not to proceed with this cut.
Eddie Duller OBE