NHS Fife accused of ‘trying to shut down a public health watchdog’

TS News 18/05/10 Picture by Dan Phillips. The entrance to Accident and Emergency, Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy.
TS News 18/05/10 Picture by Dan Phillips. The entrance to Accident and Emergency, Victoria Hospital, Kirkcaldy.
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NHS Fife has been accused of trying to shut down a public health watchdog just when it is needed most.

Fife Patients’ Forum, which was set up in 2001 to scrutinise and give feedback on health matters across the Kingdom, is to be integrated into statutory Public Partnership Fora, part of Community Health Partnerships.

But the move has been questioned by health board members who say it ‘‘sends out the wrong message’’.

And they say the watchdog is needed now more than ever as the new wing at Victoria Hospital prepares to open its doors.

At last week’s operational division meeting, John Winton, a non-executive director, described the move as “ridiculous.”

Public perception

He hit out: “Here we are, about to change hospital services in Fife and the group that has dealt with the issues from the public perception will be split up.

‘‘Quite frankly it is ridiculous and sends out totally the wrong message to the public. Is NHS Fife trying to hide away from problems that may arise from the change of services?”

Dave Stewart, chairman, rejected the claims: “We are an open organisation and we pride ourselves it. That will carry on.”

Not relevant

He said the matter would have to be discussed elsewhere as the operational division committee was not the relevant body.

Hilda Johnston, chairman of the Patients’ Forum, said that integrating it with CHPs would not work because they only dealt with particular areas of the service - whereas the forum covered all of the NHS.

“Other boards still have these groups (forums) running,” she said. “We don’t see why it has to go.”

Caroline Inwood, director of nursing, said CHPs had been created as statutory bodies.

“For the greater good we need to have a more diverse discussion,” she explained. “With the integration of the Patients’ Forum we believe that PPFs will become more constructive than they have been.”