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 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.”
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.”
A nine-week consultation launched on Tuesday 19th December and runs until 6th 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 at www.reading.gov.uk/yourlocalhealthwatch
For any queries, requests for hard copies of the questionnaire or extra support to complete it, please contact 0118 937 2383 or email email@example.com 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:
15th January 2018, 1:30 to 3:30pm;
2nd February 2018, 2 to 4pm (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.
18th January 2018 from 3pm to 5pm in the David Hicks Room, Council Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Any providers interested in the new service can attend an event on 25th January 10:00am to 12:00 at the Wokingham Council office. Providers will need to book their place for this event by contacting Sarah Salter Sarah.Salter@wokingham.gov.uk
A report on the response to this consultation will be presented to Wokingham Borough Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 7th March 2018 http://wokingham.moderngov.co.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=141&MId=2477 and to Reading Borough Council’s Policy Committee on 12th March 2018 www.reading.gov.uk/article/10616/Policy-Committee-12-MAR-2018
The current budget for both Healthwatch Reading and Healthwatch Wokingham is £217,000 p.a. Bringing together the Reading and Wokingham Healthwatch offers opportunities to make some efficiency savings, whilst still keeping a service which meets statutory responsibilities, is accountable to both councils, and responds to the needs of both local populations. Taking this into account it is proposed that the budget for a combined Wokingham and Reading Healthwatch service would be in the region of £173,000.
Find out more about Healthwatch at www.healthwatch.co.uk
Reading Borough Council
Reading Borough Council continues to face the challenge of the most difficult budget position in its history. Demand for key Council services – like caring for vulnerable adults and children – is rising at a time of unprecedented and sustained cuts in funding for Local Government nationally.
In Reading, government funding will have been cut by nearly £58 million between 2010 and 2020, leaving the Council with a government grant of under £2 million. 75 pence of every £1 of business rates collected locally now leaves the town goes to Central Government.
The on-going budget gap means the Council is continuing to have to make difficult decisions in every service area.
Wokingham Borough Council
Severe funding cuts from central government and an increase in demand for services such as adult social care means we are facing a challenging financial future.
One of the main sources for general (non-ringfenced) funding for most councils is the general Revenue Government Support grant. For Wokingham Borough Council this grant has been reducing rapidly and will, by 2019/20, have been cut completely. Furthermore, in 2019/20 Wokingham Borough Council will potentially move to a negative of £7million, which means the authority will be paying money to other local authorities. This is unprecedented and is forcing the council to look very carefully at all our expenditures.