Scottish Health Council ‘too close to government’, says Health and Sport Committee

Written by Tom Freeman on 9 February 2017 in News

Scottish Health Council structure and model 'not independent', according to Health and Sport Committee convener Neil Findlay

The Scottish Health Council, an organisation set up to make sure patient voices are heard, is not sufficiently independent of government to carry out its purpose, a group of MSPs has said.

In a strongly-worded letter to the body, Health and Sport Committee convener Neil Findlay says MSPs were “clear the SHC does not in its current guise present itself as a body independent of Government”.

The SHC exists “to promote patient focus and public involvement in the NHS in Scotland,” according to the body’s website.


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But after a tense evidence session last month, the committee has told the SHC it should report its progress annually and have a more diverse governing board.

The SHC sits within Healthcare Improvement Scotland, which is directly funded by the Scottish Government.

“The SHC does not function as a ‘health body’, but as only a committee of such a body,” said Findlay. “Most importantly the perception of the SHC is not that of an independent body. Its function is not clear to the public or to health boards.”

In committee SHC director Richard Norris had told MSPs: “Our role is not to campaign on behalf of local groups.”

But in the letter Findlay said: “The SHC, or some other independent body, should have as a primary purpose to ensure opportunities are available for people to input to redesign and reshaping services at the earliest possible stage.”

Norris told Holyrood: “The Scottish Health Council welcomed the opportunity to attend a recent Health and Sport Committee meeting to talk about our work to improve patient and community involvement in healthcare decisions.

“At that session, we agreed that the committee would have an opportunity to contribute to the current review of the Scottish Health Council’s role.

“This review will help to ensure all of our activities are focused on supporting and empowering people to influence the changing shape of Scotland’s health and care services. The various suggestions made by the committee will be carefully considered and used to inform the review.” 

But the committee criticised the SHC for conducting the ongoing review “largely internally”.

“There is no mention of the review on your website, or of an open opportunity for interested people to submit their views,” Findlay said.

On the SHC website its mission statement says: “By ensuring that NHS Boards listen and take account of people's views, we can achieve a "mutual NHS" - where the NHS works in partnership with patients, carers and the public.”

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