Volunteering and having a healthcare voice

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A column by Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum

This is the end of volunteer week.

Volunteering can change lives; you can make the world a better place. Volunteers provide services we depend on and give us pleasure.

They are not appreciated by everyone. The Argyll and Bute health and care forums have been told they have outstayed their welcome.

A bit of history might help.

These forums arose out of patient representative groups liaising with GPs. They later became supported by community engagement officers appointed by the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).

There was an undertaking to listen to the voice of the people and share with them the intentions and difficulties of those providing the services. That was a prescient approach, for this year the Scottish Government advocated empowerment by listening to what matters most to patients.

Health boards are required to communicate and consult, but are allowed to choose their own method. It is unfortunate there is no clear-cut way of monitoring this engagement.

Last year Argyll and Bute HSCP decided to change its way of doing things. Instead of building on established structures, as recommended in the guidelines, community cafes are envisaged.

None of the local forums are happy with this, because these are to be informal and unaccountable.

Each area in Argyll is at a different stage of response. We are in the process of following the example of Helensburgh ,which became independent and self-funded years ago. Rothesay health and care forum was neither consulted nor informed, but intends to carry on. Oban is still awaiting reply to a letter signed by several influential figures making the case for continuance.

None of this is ideal, because we no longer have the close links with our care providers.

The decisions on this policy change seem to have been predetermined in secrecy and in breach of partnership’s own rules.

In the six months since community cafes were decided, none have taken place and no topics have been announced.

Is this meant to put you off volunteering? Quite the opposite.

You could find that it provided you with Ikigai, what the Japanese call reason for living. If what you do matters to you, you find ways to carry on when it gets tough.

Our groups represent a lot of people, and we find ourselves surprised and disappointed at the way we feel we have been treated.

In the next few months we will be hearing from people who have had experience of having to fight for the care they need, and featuring the services which can help.

Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum has an email circle for information and comment as well as meetings open to everyone. Special events feature in the pages of the Argyllshire Advertiser.

To contact Mid Argyll Health and Care Forum, email the forum chairperson Barabel McKay at barabelmck@gmail.com