AS a former editor of the Oxford Mail, new county health watchdog boss Eddie Duller knows a thing or two about communicating with the public.

The 78-year-old, who will take over the chairmanship of Healthwatch Oxfordshire next month, said communication is vital to ensure smooth running of the NHS.

To this end he wants the NHS to work harder at getting the message across to patients so people do not go to the wrong service, putting pressure on waits.

Mr Duller, editor for nine years until his 1994 retirement, said: “The problem we are having with the health service and social care is probably in part due to the fact that the general public does not really understand exactly how the NHS works.”

Health managers have often warned that many people who go to A&E could use another service like a pharmacy or NHS 111 but do not.

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October to December was the worst A&E response times for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which formed in 2011 and runs the city’s John Radcliffe Hospital.

Some 86.1 per cent of patients were discharged, admitted or transferred within four hours of arrival. The target is 95 per cent.

The Summertown grandfather-of-two said: “We have a lot of people living in Oxford who don’t understand the system at all simply because they come from other countries, they do not have a system like ours.”

And he added: “There has been a tremendous change with social care, the percentage of families looking looking after their own has dropped considerably.”

Healthwatch replaced Local Involvement Networks (LINks) on April 1, 2013, in England under a national shake-up.

But it started that August after Oxfordshire County Council delays finding an organisation to run it.

In June last year its first chairman Larry Sanders quit over a row with “hostile” board members and eight of its 12 members will be appointed next month.

Mr Duller said: “It is a new organisation, most organisations are not absolutely perfect, they have a few teething problems at the beginning.”

He said: “My priority is that we really have to heighten the awareness of Healthwatch, we want more people to know about it.”

Work so far has included a survey of Asian women’s priorities, access to GPs and how students use health services, particularly A&E.

The former Cambridge Evening News news editor, who began reporting in the late 1950s, said: “It is a listening exercise job, it is getting the facts together objectively and reporting objectively.”

Yet he sets out to be a friendly critic, adding: “When I edited the Oxford Mail, for every one I had complaining I had about ten letters saying how fantastic the nurses and doctors are.”

Contact Healthwatch Oxfordshire on 01865 520520.