Bosses of new patient watchdog ask for patience days before handover

Previous chairman Sandra Berry stood down claiming Parkwood had not contacted the old elected steering group

Previous chairman Sandra Berry stood down claiming Parkwood had not contacted the old elected steering group

First published in Surrey Comet: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy editor - Kingston

Bosses at the private company about to take charge of Kingston’s new health watchdog have asked the public to be patient before revealing its plans for the service.

Parkwood Healthcare won a two-year contract from Kingston Council in February to run Kingston Healthwatch, replacing the local involvement network (LINk) formerly run by Kingston Voluntary Action.

The company will officially take over on Monday, April 1.

But concerns have been raised that the appointment of a private healthcare firm could lead to a conflict of interest, and have urged the company to address their concerns.

Sandra Berry, the former chairman of Kingston LINk (local involvement network), said: "The major concern is the independence of Healthwatch and how it can be monitored when Kingston Council is funding it and yet it is meant to scrutinise its health services."

Parkwood Healthcare is a division of Parkwood Holdings, and has three service areas including a nursing agency, which provides nurses to NHS Trusts across London and the South East.

The company also hosted five LINKs groups before Healthwatches were introduced - Lewisham, Harrow, Greenwich, Essex and Southend and Lancashire. It will not be running any of those authorities’ Health Watches.

Malcolm Alexander, chairman of the National Association of LINk Members said: “Where is the public's watchdog on health and social care services hiding?

“We expect them to be hitting the headlines on April 1. Where are they?”

Tim Heyward –Smith, operations director for Parkwood Healthcare said: “We’re still negotiating the terms of the contract and we expect that to be in place before April 1.

“People will just have to be patient for a week or two longer. We understand people’s frustrations we’re going to have a contract with the council to deliver a service using public money and we just want to make sure we don’t say or do anything that might change."

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