“There is now a great push among all political parties to bring health and social care together,” guest speaker, Anita Higham, Chair Oxfordshire North Locality Forum for Patient and Public Engagement in Health and Social Care told members of the Labour Women’s Group at their meeting on 24 September.
A diagram of the many and complex layers of ‘Commissioning Authorities’ (resulting from the reorganisation of the National Health Service by the Conservative Government) was used to illustrate the challenges associated with current attempts to merge the NHS with Social Care.
“The NHS and Social Services have entirely different funding structures and organisational cultures,” she explained.
Health and Wellbeing Boards.
The Health and Wellbeing Boards are responsible for preparing Strategic Commissioning Plans for Health and Social Care and have a statutory requirement to bring together representatives from primary care, clinical commissioning groups, social care and public health. Their working document is the ‘Strategic Commissioning Plan’. Healthwatch is also a member of the Board in each County and has a statutory duty to challenge the Board members if they do not adhere to the plan.
Can You Help Protect the Rights of Users?
An invitation to join Healthwatch Oxfordshire, the ‘consumer champion for health and social care in Oxfordshire’ was issued by Anita. The former head of Banbury School now puts her great energy and enthusiasm into her role as Chair of Oxfordshire North Locality Forum for Patients and Public Engagement in Health and Social Care. “Volunteers are needed to visit hospitals and ensure that service provision is up to standard,” she said.
A Crisis Looming in GP Services
Anita also spoke about “a crisis looming over a shortage of GPs”. She expressed grave concern that retiring GPs are not able to attract young doctors into their practices. Among those doctors who do become GPs there is trend for them to leave practices in the UK in their mid-30s to emigrate (mainly to Canada, USA and Australia) where working conditions are more amenable.
“Since GP practices have become autonomous small private enterprises these factors have got worse, with an increasing demand to perform medically and a perceived heavier burden on doctors of non-medical responsibilities such as counselling and psychotherapeutic work”.
Oxfordshire County Council cuts again!
Oxfordshire County Council has established a ‘Health and Wellbeing Board’ to assess the health and social needs of each community, and has commissioned ‘Healthwatch Oxfordshire’ to protect the rights of users to these services. However, because the funding for Healthwatch was not ‘ring fenced’ by the government, the OCC has kept back one third of the funding allocated.
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