Healthwatch Oxfordshire 'not yet staffed'

A newly launched independent health watchdog has no staff or dedicated phone line yet, the BBC has learned.

Healthwatch Oxfordshire went live on 1 April to represent consumers' views in health and social care after taking over from Oxfordshire LINk.

The body appointed to run it, Oxfordshire Rural Community Council, said it had only three weeks to launch.

The county clinical commissioning group said the situation was "only a small concern".

Healthwatch Oxfordshire is part of Healthwatch Network, a network of 152 community-focused local watchdogs.

Temporary contract

The county council did not appoint any of the bidders who applied to run it, and awarded a temporary one-year contract three weeks ago to Oxfordshire Rural Community Council.

Its chief executive, Linda Watson, said they were trying to recruit staff as quickly as possible.

She said because of this short amount of time the body was still working out "how it is we're going to run the service and what we're going to operate".

Dr Stephen Richards, chief executive of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said the situation was "only a small concern" but that the "sooner Healthwatch can be fully staffed and up and running the better for all of us".

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