Reading and Wokingham Councils are consulting on plans to combine their local Healthwatch services.
Healthwatch is an independent organisation which listens to people’s views on health and social care services and feeds back to the organisations providing these services.
Healthwatch supports people to get the best from services such as hospitals, pharmacies, social care, GP and dentistry services.
Reading and Wokingham Councils each currently commission two separate Healthwatch services, at a combined cost of £217,000 p.a.
Both authorities receive less funding from central Government than they used to, and need to review how to meet their statutory responsibilities, including meeting increasing demand for essential services for vulnerable children and adults.
The proposal represents a potential combined saving of £44,000 p.a. whilst still allowing both Councils to meet the needs of their local populations.
Cllr Julian McGhee-Sumner, Wokingham Borough Council’s executive member for adults’ services, health, wellbeing and housing, said: “With an increase in demand for services in the borough, it is important we look to make our services more efficient. The option of combining our healthwatch services could ensure that we meet the needs of our residents while making a significant saving.
“As healthwatch provides an independent voice for residents, it’s important that we hear the views of as many people as possible.”
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health, said: “Healthwatch provides a vital mouthpiece for people to voice their opinion on local health and social care services. It also helps monitor the standard of provision and how local care services could be improved.
“Since there are many overlaps between Reading’s and Wokingham’s health and care providers, at a time when both local authorities are under extreme financial pressure as a result of cuts in Government funding, combining the contracts makes good financial sense for both of us.
“We are keen to hear people’s thoughts on our proposal for a joint service.”
A nine-week consultation launched on Tuesday 19 December and runs until 6 February 2018.
The Councils are particularly keen to hear from people who use health and social care services and local organisations with an interest in this area. The consultation can be completed online.
For any queries, requests for hard copies of the questionnaire or extra support to complete it, please contact 0118 937 2383 or emailing the wellbeing team.
Written comments should be sent to: Wellbeing Team, Level 2, Civic Centre, Reading RG1 2LU.
There will also be public events to discuss the proposals at the following locations:
15 January 2018, 1:30 to 3:30pm;
2 February 2018, 2:00 to 4:00pm (as part of the Older People’s Working Group)
Both of these meetings will be in the Council Chamber at Plaza West, Bridge Street, Reading RG1 2LU.
18 January 2018 from 3:00pm to 5:00pm in David Hicks Room, Council Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN.
Any providers interested in the new service can attend an event on 25 January 10:00am to 12:00noon at the Wokingham Council offices. Providers will need to book their place for this event by contacting Sarah Salter.