The Scottish Health Council is described as a “key part” of Healthcare Improvement Scotland and that it “plays a leading role in ensuring that NHS Scotland listens to the views of people and communities, and that it acts on those views.”
One of the central initiatives of the Scottish Health Council is known as “Our Voice”.
It is described thus:
“Our Voice is based on a vision where people who use health and social care services, carers and members of the public are enabled to engage purposefully with health and social care providers to continuously improve and transform services. People will be provided with feedback on the impact of their engagement, or a demonstration of how their views have been considered.”
The consultation on the role of the Scottish Health Council received 175 responses including those from members of staff of Healthcare Improvement Scotland. A senior health journalist, noting that 11% of respondents were Healthcare Improvement Scotland staff, made this comment “Turkeys and Christmas?”
In my response to this consultation I repeated my longstanding concerns about the lack of independence of the Scottish Health Council. It is clear that I was not alone in voicing this concern:
Healthcare Improvement Scotland is essentially a partnership organisation with the Scottish Government. I would suggest that it is politically expedient for the Scottish Government to be inextricably involved in an organisation that has an umbrella role in health and social care and that is branded as “improvement” from the outset.
The report on the consultation on the role of the Scottish Health Council had this as one of its conclusions:
It is my view that Healthcare Improvement Scotland has no intention of allowing the Scottish Health Council to become independent. It is after all a “key part” of it, just as Healthcare Improvement Scotland is a “key part” of the Scottish Government. If this is the case, then we should ask ourselves:
“Our voice”: is it actually ours?