A louder voice for health group

A NETWORK that helps shape health and social care services is looking for more members ahead of being given greater responsibilities.

Hartlepool LINk health group is to be given a wider role when it relaunches next year as Health Watch Hartlepool.

Health Watch groups are being introduced up and down the country as part of the Government’s NHS reform under the Health and Social Care bill.

They will help local people have a bigger say on how care services are delivered in their area.

Hartlepool LINk currently has more than 300 volunteer members and works to improve local health and social care services.

Christopher Akers-Belcher, Hartlepool LINk co-ordinator, said he thinks the change will be a good thing, but is anxious the expertise it has built up is not lost.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who is a member of Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “I think it is a positive move forward.

“The new Health Watch is supposed to be a bigger voice and consumer champion for local health and social care.

“I don’t want us to lose the expertise we have generated over the last three years.

“We work very closely with everybody in health and social care and we are already at the forefront of innovation about change and don’t want to lose that by rebranding.”

Health Watch Hartlepool, which will launch on April 1 next year, will be independent and able to employ its own staff.

It will have a seat on new Health and Well Being Board to make sure the views of patients, carers and other service users are taken into account when the needs of local care are decided.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the new group will have a wider regional role and will provide people with information about what to do when things go wrong.

Health Watch Hartlepool will take on some signposting services currently provided by the primary care trust.

Coun Akers-Belcher is urging more people to get involved as Health Watch Hartlepool must reflect the diversity of the community.

He added: “We would like to recruit as many people as possible. This should be seen as the Citizens Advice Bureau for health and social care.”

For more information or to get involved with Health Watch Hartlepool, contact Christopher Akers-Belcher on (01429) 262641.