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They face a financial cliff-edge, yet health bosses are failing to listen to the very people using their services.
That was the accusation made as Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum met to hear all about plans for a new health and social care strategic plan.
Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), an amalgamation of council and health board resources, is in the process of developing its second (2019-2022) three-year strategic plan.
Faced with a spending shortfall of £5.2 million this financial year and the prospect of this growing by £1 million in the next year, the situation is described by the HSCP as ‘challenging’.
Reviewing each part of its services – from care homes to hospital services, a series of broad service changes are proposed, with these due to go out to public consultation shortly.
The top-down process of public engagement, though, does not meet with the approval of Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum.
Chairwoman Barabel MacKay said: ‘We want to be involved. People should be looked on as a resource. We have the “lived” experience.’
She acknowledged that it was not always easy to speak up, adding: ‘Members of this forum are motivated, but what about less able and older folk?
‘I’m past worrying about asking daft questions, but people can be intimidated when health professionals are round the table. But people need to be asked, not dictated to in a top-down way.’
Presenting the plan for ‘stakeholder engagement’ ahead of the new strategic plan was Jay Wilkinson of the HSCP, who explained: ‘The intention is not just to base the consultation in groups like this, and we intend to take this to communities.
‘At the moment we are only looking at high level changes, not specifics.’
Councillor Anne Horn said: ‘I was a member of the shadow board when the HSCP was set up, and things have not moved forward. We keep asking the same questions. It worries me – and who is driving this process?’
Emphasising that any criticism is not aimed at HSCP front line staff, Barabel MacKay said of the decision makers: ‘It’s not just about listening, it is about hearing what people are saying and having the humility to realise you need help.’