A NEW health and social care watchdog has been urged to communicate effectively and involve minority groups and children.

Healthwatch will become the statutory link between patients and health and social care bosses, and will also have the power to hold bodies to account.

About 150 people attended a launch event at the Kassam Stadium in Oxford to discuss the new organisation.

Oxfordshire Rural Communities Council (ORCC), which won the contract to run Healthwatch, was told to improve communication.

Delays in the tendering process have meant Healthwatch is still not fully staffed, and an election to create its board will not take place until July.

One of those at the meeting, Judith Wardle, said: “I think it is going to be very difficult because they have come into it so late, compared to other areas of the country. But there is a lot of enthusiasm and I think it can work.

“The priority for Healthwatch is communication, to make sure that everyone knows about it. If they do not get the feedback about the problems they cannot influence the services.”

Dr Stephen Richards is the chief executive officer of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which took over purchasing health services on April 1.

He said: “Doctors and people in health management often give acronyms and one is KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid.

“Whatever comes up through Healthwatch and the public involvement network, let’s make it really simple.”

ORCC chief executive Linda Watson felt there was no point in Healthwatch trying to set up another layer of complexity.

She said: “We need to reach out to the tens of thousands of people who are not here today and be very aware of the needs of minority groups and children. It has to be communication, communication, communication, and lots of it.”

Healthwatch, which takes over from predecessor Oxfordshire LINk, will have powers to demand answers from health and social care providers.

It advertised a salary of £40,000 for the Healthwatch director position.

The role will be funded using the commissioning cash from Oxfordshire County Council.



The consumers' champion


ROS Pearce has been named as Healthwatch’s new director and will formally join the team in about a month’s time.
She will leave her post as transformation manager at the Nottingham Community and Voluntary Service.
Ms Pearce has previously worked in strategy at Leicestershire County Council and was director of the ACE Children’s Centre in Chipping Norton.
She said: “I am excited and looking forward to it. Healthwatch is the consumer’s champion – we will be the voice of consumers.
“For us to do that effectively we need to listen to what people are saying and effectively communicate that to the commissioners.”