Havering’s new health scrutiny watchdog won’t be joined with other boroughs’

Havering will not be joining with Barking and Dagenham to scrutinise the local health service – but will join a London-wide arrangement to handle patient complaints.

Councils across the country are required, under a new law, to set up new Healthwatch groups to scrutinise healthcare, and abolish existing LINk organisations by April 2013.

The borough had initially been included in plans drawn up by Barking and Dagenham for a joint Healthwatch pooling resources from the two boroughs.

This drew the ire of critics, including the current Havering LINk chairman Med Buck, who said that the council had pre-judged a consultation that was then underway.

The results of the consultation was released last week and found that a majority of respondents voted in favour of Havering retaining an independent organisation of its own.

Havering Council will also take over responsibility for advocating in disputes between patients and health services in an arrangement which will be known as the Independent Complaints Advocacy Service.

A spokesman said that the council has decided to join a London-wide arrangement for this service as it will offer the best quality service as well as being better value for money, and would result in a smooth handover of existing cases so people aren’t disrupted at a sensitive time.

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The two new services will have a wider remit, offering signposting and advice to residents as well as reflecting local patient views when decisions are made on services in the area.

Healthwatch will also be responsible for collecting the views of those who use children’s healthcare services.

Cllr Steven Kelly, cabinet member for individuals, said: “I am really pleased with the decision and look forward to it taking shape.

“I am grateful to all of those who took part in the consultation, which has enabled us to reach a decision that everyone is happy to support.”

The issue had been called-in to a special debate by Cllr Paul McGeary (Labour, Heaton) in September. He said: “It’s good that we won’t be the poor relation of Barking and Dagenham, I look forward to seeing the detail of the proposals themselves.”