Concern over controls put on health watchdog

THE independence of the new health and social care watchdog has been questioned after it was announced that its chairman is a former senior Wiltshire Council manager.

Wiltshire Involvement Network (WIN) will be abolished in April and replaced by Healthwatch Wiltshire as part of the Government’s NHS reforms.

WIN held a public meeting in Devizes Corn Exchange on Saturday, where speakers talked about the various changes.

The meeting was told the newly appointed chairman of Healthwatch Wiltshire is Christine Graves, who retired from Wiltshire Council last September after 40 years. She was a manager in social care and health services.

Mrs Graves, who lives in Wiltshire, told the audience: “Some of you will be thinking that I have got mixed commitments – I haven’t. I feel very privileged to be part of Healthwatch Wiltshire.”

The meeting, attended by 120 people, was also told that Healthwatch’s budget would come from Wiltshire Council in the form of a grant. The council will also set targets for Healthwatch.

Healthwatch Wiltshire will also be represented on the Health and Wellbeing Board. From April the Board will become a committee of Wiltshire Council.

Two members of the public expressed concern that Healthwatch Wiltshire was being funded by Wiltshire Council and questioned whether it could be truly independent.

Wiltshire councillor Mike Hewitt, a former chairman of the council’s health scrutiny committee, said: “WIN have been genuinely independent of the council. What worries me is the independence going forward, they are going to be tightly controlled.”

Wiltshire Council officer Sue Geary said: “I think the Health and Wellbeing Board will bring an extra layer of independence because it gives more powers to councillors and there’s a health select committee that will scrutinise the board’s work.”

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