Michael White's representation of the Wiltshire health overview and scrutiny committee is inaccurate and misleading, writes Roy While
He states that the county council's scrutiny committee "has signed off on it all". These committees do not sign off on NHS plans. Instead, a committee can challenge a trust if it feels plans have not been properly consulted on, or are not in the interests of the health community. In this case, the PCT went through a 16-month engagement process before carrying out a formal consultation. As such, the committee could not dispute that every effort had been made to engage, inform, involve and consult with the public.
The committee did not, as Mr White suggests, "back the plans", but it did accept that the PCT's worrying financial position was likely to lead to arbitrary cuts unless it could alter its pattern of services at the time. The committee could not condone continuation of the pattern of services as fair and equitable, given that a large chunk of investment in primary care was directed towards the upkeep of some buildings in the north of the county, with nothing comparable in the south. But the promise of a 24-hour community nursing service did mean the start of a primary care service developed with the whole county in mind.
I take exception to Mr White's glib and inaccurate comment that the committee did not refer to the independent reconfiguration panel because it "did not realise it could do that". Wiltshire made the very first referral by an overview and scrutiny committee to the then health secretary John Reid in 2004, regarding proposals to change maternity services. I am pleased to note that the PCT is now looking at the committee's proposals for service development in a number of areas, including maternity, which it would not have been in a position to do had we entered into a formal dispute.
The Wiltshire committee published an analysis of the changes proposed by the PCT. I feel sure Mr White has not read this report and that this has led him to underestimate the work carried out by the committee.
I note that he spoke to MP James Gray. Perhaps if he talks to the committee as well next time he will be able to give a more balanced view on what really happened.
Roy While (Con), chairman, Wiltshire health overview and scrutiny committee