Patients warned after watchdogs axed

PATIENTS could be faced with a bewildering number of organisations with their many acronyms as the nationwide community health councils are replaced. Health watchdogs said the changes should improve the way concerns and complaints are dealt with in the NHS, but emphasised people needed to know where to turn for help.

PATIENTS could be faced with a bewildering number of organisations with their many acronyms as the nationwide community health councils are replaced.

Health watchdogs said the changes should improve the way concerns and complaints are dealt with in the NHS, but emphasised people needed to know where to turn for help.

The community heath council's North East Essex office will be abolished in December and replaced with a range of organisations designed to monitor patients' care and assist with complaints.

For example, changes to the system this autumn mean patients with complaints in the eastern region about the NHS now go an independent advocacy service known as POhWER.


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Independent patient forums will come into operation on the day the health council closes, although there will not be an overlap as the transition takes place.

The North East Essex CHC's final report also said it still had concerns about the health service.

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Those worries include access to NHS dental services, maintenance and cleanliness of GP surgeries and health clinics and the failure of ambulance services to meet target times.

Joan Smith, chief officer of the outgoing North East Essex CHC, said: "We have printed a report of all these issues so that they can be used as a resource to give some sort of background.

"Ideally we would have had an overlap because they will need time to form cohesive groups."

But she said the new services had the potential to improve on the outgoing CHC.

"As long as the communication links are there, it has the potential to work very well and the patient forum will have the power to go out and monitor what is going on and where necessary make unannounced visits," she said.

Vickie Williams, chairwoman of Tendring Health Action Group, welcomed the changes.

She said: "It will be an improvement, the CHCs have their meetings, but I think they are not in touch with the people. In Harwich people on the street do not know what the CHC does.

"Patient forums are the way forward and I am quite happy to see them coming in, but people will need to know where they can turn to for help because there are too many acronyms."

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