Northern Ireland

Campaigner makes call for NI patient council to go

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

A hospital campaigner has said money would be better spent investing in front-line health services than on the Patient and Client Council (PCC).

It follows the PCC's decision to halt public road shows because of the upcoming Stormont elections.

The PCC said the shows were postponed due to civil service election guidelines.

Teresa McKenna of the Save the Mid-Ulster Hospital campaign said she felt it was "duplicating" the health trusts.

"I have very strong views on the Patient and Client Council," she said.

"They may not like them.

"I am sure they have done a good job for other people, personally I feel that the money would be better invested back into front-line services."

The PCC 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."

Maeve Hully of the PCC said it was "bitterly disappointed" the roadshows had been postponed, but that it intended to go ahead with them after the election period ended.

"We were working towards the 25 March which was the original guidance that we received," she said.

"On 14 February 2011, new guidance was issued that the guidance should be drawn upon from immediate effect.

"We then had to reconsider where we were."

Ms Hully said the road shows were only a "small part" of the work it did and that it had spoken to "thousands of people" across Northern Ireland about their priorities for health and social care.

Earlier, the chairman of the Assembly's health committee, Jim Wells, criticised the decision of the PCC to cancel the road shows. The road shows aimed to find out what the public wants from their health service.

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.

Mr Wells said the decision to cancel the road shows questioned that independence.