Members of Bristol’s Health and Well-Being Board (“H&WBB”) welcome ‘challenging’ questions from Protect Our NHS on HealthWatch and Harmoni


September 9, 2013 by Protect Our NHS

On 23 May 2013 members of Protect Our NHS attended the ‘open to the public’ H&WBB as part of its campaign to ensure that the deliberations and decisions of this statutory local authority board takes into account the views and concerns of the public.

The text of the statement and questions below is self explanatory:

I am speaking on behalf of Protect Our NHS a group that grew out of the several thousand 38 Degrees supporters and members of the public in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset who oppose the increasing privatisation and marketisation of the health service. We comprise ordinary concerned members of the public, former and current health professionals, GPs, councillors, trade unionists, active volunteers already working in the health and social care sector, parents and carers, patients, prospective parliamentary candidate, etc.

We want to claim our right enshrined within the NHS Constitution “to be involved, directly or through representatives, in the planning of healthcare services commissioned by NHS bodies, the development and consideration of proposals for changes in the way those services are provided, and in decisions to be made affecting the operation of those service”.

Our first question concerns HealthWatch Bristol (HWB). From reading the Local Government Association / HealthWatch document Establishing Local HealthWatch – Working with health and well being boards, the role profile for the HWB’s representative on this H&WBB includes, “to provide constructive challenge, from a patient and public perspective”. From various emails received from The Care Forum* and meetings attended by those of us interested in the development of HealthWatch, there is obviously a lot of setting-up activity going on. We have also read the HWB report to today’s meeting.

But, when will HealthWatch actually be up and running? And when will it be ready to receive the concerns of members of the public so that the H&WBB genuinely hears, via HWB’s representative on the Board, our views and concerns so that constructive challenge can be provided?

Our second question concerns the business of Harmoni. In the light of its appalling performance in delivering the new 111 service that has been reported across many parts of the country what steps is the H&WBB taking to monitor and report on its performance locally? Also are H&WBB members aware of the bigger picture with Harmoni***, which was bought out last year for £48 million by UK Care, who earlier this year also took over Emerson’s Green Independent Sector Treatment Centre** from UKSH. UK Care in turn is controlled by a global private equity company Bridgepoint who are using a tax haven to reduce Care UK’s taxable profits. This is all NHS tax payers’ money leeching out to corporates who have little interest in patients in Bristol. Is this an ethical way to run our NHS?

A number of Board members approached us afterwards to say how important it was that campaigning groups like ours were asking questions like this. We should not forget that opposition to the government’s health ‘reforms’ exists amongst members in these bodies.

For us it’s not just about asking the questions but monitoring the activities of bodies like H&WBB and HealthWatch, holding them to account and involving them directly in the fight back.

We have been assured of written answers and we will report back further on these on these pages.

* The Care Form in Bristol has the contract to run HWB
** This is (was) one of five ISTCs run by UKSH
*** See blog below

One thought on “Members of Bristol’s Health and Well-Being Board (“H&WBB”) welcome ‘challenging’ questions from Protect Our NHS on HealthWatch and Harmoni

  1. Gabriel Scally says:

    Well done for such a constructive and important challenge. I wonder how exactly NHS England will involve people in the commissioning of the extensive range of services that they are directly involved in commissioning.

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“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.” Noam Chomsky

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