Northern Ireland

Wells questions Patient council road shows postponement

Jim Wells
Image caption Health Committee chairman Jim Wells has questioned the move

The chairman of the Assembly's health committee has criticised the decision of the Patient and Client Council to cancel public road shows because of the upcoming Stormont elections.

The Patient and Client Council (PCC) was set up in 2009.

It was established as an independent voice for health and social care in Northern Ireland.

Jim Wells said the decision to cancel the road shows questions that independence.

"It is their job to give the public an opportunity to raise issues of concern. to question officials and report back," he said.

"I thought these road shows represented a very good working example of that type of activity.

"But unfortunately at the behest of the civil service they have been stopped."

The road shows aimed to find out what the public wants from their health service.

In a statement, the PCC said the shows were cancelled due to civil service election guidelines.

It said it had received a circular from the head of the Northern Ireland civil service which notified public bodies and civil servants that the formal election process would begin on 25 March.

During the formal election period, civil servants and public bodes are expected to act impartially.

The advice from the civil service in the PCC statement said: "The guidance should, however, be drawn upon with immediate effect where any circumstances arise before then which appear likely to compromise the key principles of impartiality."

The PCC has declined to comment further on the postponement.