‘Help us to shape the health service’

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BOSSES at a patient forum have vowed to keep up their vital work in the face of massive budget cuts – and called on the public to get involved at what is a crucial time for the NHS.

Calderdale LINk saw its budget slashed by 74 per cent earlier this year, forcing it to streamline work and move from Dean Clough into a small office at Northgate House.

Outgoing chairman Shaffiq Mahmood said: “We have had one of the largest budget cuts. But everyone’s just pulled together and got on with it.”

Co-ordinator Rachel Jones added: “There’s no upside when you lose money, but it’s shown the determination of the steering group to find ways to keep going. So it’s been positive in that sense.”

They are now calling on support from those who care about the future of the NHS during its biggest change in 65 years.

The Health Bill – which passes the NHS budget to GPs and scraps PCTs – was passed by the House of Commons earlier this month but is still to be passed by the Lords.

Calderdale’s GP ‘commissioning consortium’ has been set up already, with a representative of Calderdale LINk on the board.

Rachel said getting involved in LINk will be a key way the public can influence the vital decisions GPs will make.

She said: “GPs will be deciding what services are available and we have a place on that board to put forward public opinion.

“We need people to come forward so we can do that.”

The LINk will also be the only voluntary sector organisation on the shadow health and wellbeing board - which oversees all health and social care services.

The LINk is especially keen to gather public interest in the setting up of its future replacement, Healthwatch - wanting opions on what it should do as well as those who want to be part of its set-up.

Mr Mahmood said: “People can have a voice through LINk because we’ve the ability to take things forward in a way other members of the public can’t.

“These are huge changes and Healthwatch is the most significant way people can have their voices heard.”

Rachel added: “Anyone with an interest in any aspect of health or social care then now is the time to get involved. ”

A public consultation on Healthwatch takes place at Health Training Centre, Free School Lane, Halifax 4pm-7pm.

For more information contact the LINk on 01422 392410 or email Rachel.jones@shaw-trust.org.uk or Calderdale.link@shaw-trust.org.uk.