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Crisis for health watchdog as director plans departure
THE director of the county’s new health and social care watchdog is stepping down after just four months in the job.
Rosalind Pearce joined Healthwatch Oxfordshire as £40,000 a year director in May – a month after the group formed – but will now step down due to “personal reasons”.
It is another setback for the group, which aims to become the patients’ champion and has the power to hold health and social care bosses to account.
Oxfordshire Rural Community Council (ORCC) won the contract to run the group the day before the April 1 deadline and four posts on the board are still not filled.
Ms Pearce said: “It is purely for personal reasons.
“I love the job and the people involved. This has been one of the hardest professional decisions I have made in my life.
“I am still here and working and will do so until ORCC and the board works through what is happening in the future around my post.
“I do not believe in indispensable people. It is not about me. “Healthwatch has a future and will continue and develop and that is exciting.”
Ms Pearce said no date has yet been set for her departure. The post was advertised at £40,000 a year.
ORCC chief executive Linda Watson said: “It is a huge shame, but we have some flexibility because the date on which she is going is still under discussion.
“The main thing is that we want to do everything possible to have an effective transition.”
Asked how she planned to replace Ms Pearce, she added: “My line of thought is to go for a consultant on a short-term basis.”
Oxfordshire County Council, which put the £320,000-a-year contract out to tender, was blamed the delays in setting up Healthwatch Oxfordshire.
But the council said none of the original bidders had been suitable and brought in ORCC for an interim period of a year.
Healthwatch’s board was announced last month following an election, but four posts still need to be filled due to a lack of people standing. Ms Pearce had to defend the organisation at a joint health overview & scrutiny committee meeting last week after councillors questioned the point of it.
Healthwatch replaced Oxfordshire LINK in April, which had been running since 2008 and carried out surveys including one of hospital food.
Susanna Pressel, a member of Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee, said: “This is the kind of thing that cannot be helped.
“Healthwatch Oxfordshire has all been sadly delayed and this is another spanner in the works, but it is no one’s fault.
“It has had a very shaky start.
“Apparently other parts of the country have had other problems but it shows what a stupid idea it was.”
- Healthwatch Oxfordshire is a statutory body set up in an effort to be the link between patients and health and social care providers and commissioners.
- The group has the power to call health and social care bosses to account, asking questions on behalf of the county’s patients and public.
- Its board - which has currently filled nine of 13 posts - sets Healthwatch Oxfordshire’s agenda, which is then put into practice by the director and her team.
- Healthwatch Oxfordshire took over from Oxfordshire LINk in April, when Government reforms saw GP-led clinical commissioning groups take over the primary care trusts which had run local healthcare services.
- Oxfordshire LINk organised patient surveys, including of hospital food, to inform its work.
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