A strong voice in time of healthcare cuts

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Deep and and wide-ranging cuts are coming to our health and care services.

There has never been a greater need for the people who use these services to ensure their voices are heard and views acted upon, according to a group set up to be the public’s mouthpiece on healthcare issues in Mid Argyll.

But members of Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum have been angered after Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) appeared to back away from supporting the group’s activities.

The HSCP, though, has said it is ‘extremely grateful for the commitment and the enthusiasm our hard-working community representatives have for improving health and social care in Argyll and Bute, and we would encourage them to feed back any issues they have locally.’

Feeling under threat, the Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum held a special meeting on February 14. The decision was that the group should continue, with a focus on achieving ‘positive, helpful outcomes’.

In recent times the forum has pushed for action on issues such as ambulance provision, pharmacy funding in the region, A&E services, dentists’ contracts and GP practice changes.

The forum’s chairwoman, Barabel McKay, said: ‘Our key principles are the same as those of the HSCP: people-centred, compassion, integrity and respect.

‘In addition, because we are entering a totally new situation of pressure on our services, we must look forward because we have to be innovative and purposeful.’

Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum is set up to be an independent body and makes decisions guided by its membership.

‘This is important,’ said Mrs McKay, ‘because at a time of huge and bewildering change it is a way of people coming together with questions or concerns about things which will affect us all.’

‘In Argyll, it means we have as much concern for the people who are delivering services as those of us who need them, because we depend on each other.

‘The people making big decisions on health and social care do understand the value of personal experience in knowing the truth of things – they call it “the lived experience”. The forum is there so you don’t have to tell it alone.’

In fact, the right to have a voice on health issues is enshrined in the Patients Rights (Scotland) Act 2011, which means that, for the first time, patients have a legal right to give feedback on their experience of healthcare and treatment, and to provide comments or raise concerns or complaints.

Mrs McKay said: ‘Not everyone can come to meetings, so in the past few months we have been communicating successfully by email as well (barabelmck@gmail.com) as by telephone and post.

‘All are welcome to join and I would urge people to do so.’