Essex County Council announced as a Local HealthWatch pathfinder as part of NHS reforms

ESSEX County Council has been selected as a ‘pathfinder’ for a new body which champions patients’ views on local health.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley announced yesterday that Essex will be one of the 75 pathfinders for the Local HealthWatch organisations being created by the Health and Social Care Bill to give a stronger voice for patients. It comes as plans to modernise the NHS are developed and integrated with social services.

Local HealthWatch will gather views from patients, carers and the community. It will also have a seat at the new health and wellbeing board at Essex County Council, with the power to refer issues to a new national body, HealthWatch England.

Council leader Peter Martin said: “I am delighted that Essex has been chosen as a pathfinder area. Local HealthWatch gives residents a big opportunity to drive improvements in health and social care. “

The council’s cabinet member for adults, health and community wellbeing, Ann Naylor, added: “This is great news for residents and we’re keen to get our pathfinder up and running as soon as we can.

“Our first job will be to recruit volunteer members from a range of backgrounds to make sure that HealthWatch is representative of Essex people.

“These volunteers will need the skills, experience and enthusiasm to steer this new organisation so that it makes a real difference to decisions about public services.”

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Essex County Council will be looking to recruit volunteer members over the coming months once further guidance has been received from the Department of Health.