Mid Argyll’s voice will be heard, say health bosses

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The public’s direct link to decision-makers will not be abolished, according to health chiefs.

People across Argyll and Bute will notice changes to health and social care services as cuts are made to deal with a black hole of at least £20 million in the next three financial years.

But the group set up to allow residents to directly influence health and social care policy, Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum (HCF), has fears over its very existence.

At its August meeting, where new chairwoman Barabel McKay was elected unopposed, HCF members voiced anger and frustration that a number of the group’s recent meetings had been cancelled by Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) – with some HCF members not informed of these cancellations.

Barabel McKay said: ‘I don’t see how anyone has the right to cancel our meetings. Is this not a democracy?’

Fred Bruce, convenor of West Loch Fyne Community Council, voiced fears the HSCP may abolish local HCFs and move to wider geographic areas, such as Mid Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands or even the whole of Argyll and Bute, meaning the public’s input would be ‘easier to control’.

Mrs McKay added: ‘We need to raise our profile and I think we should do everything we can to publicise what the HCF does.’

In a statement, Argyll and Bute HSCP said that ‘effective public engagement and feedback’ was essential to the delivery of its services.

The statement continued: ‘We have recently reviewed and refreshed our public engagement framework, with public representatives, staff and the Scottish Health Council with the aim to strengthen and improve the planning of public involvement and this was approved by the Integration Joint Board in May this year.

‘The health and care forums are an essential element in this engagement with local communities and are run and chaired by members of the local community.

‘We have no plans to abolish HCFs but we do regularly review with HCF members how they are functioning to understand how we can best support, nurture and strengthen their role in expressing their needs and experiences of health and social care services.’