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COUNTY'S HEALTH SCRUTINY GOES UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

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A comprehensive assessment of Hertfordshire's health needs should be drawn up, a county council committee has decid...
A comprehensive assessment of Hertfordshire's health needs should be drawn up, a county council committee has decided.

The study will provide a cohesive blueprint for all health matters discussed by the adult care, community safety, and health scrutiny committee. It will also act as a guiding light for primary care trusts (PCTs) when drawing up future proposals.

Councillors voted on Tuesday to chart the health landscape of the county in the light of controversial proposals from PCTs across Hertfordshire and the potential impact these may have on residents.

Iris Tarry, chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee, the parent panel of Hertfordshire's scrutiny committees, said: 'Today's decision means that instead of continuing to scrutinise issues as they arise in a reactive way, the committee will identify the future requirements of health services in Hertfordshire.'

The committee has no authority of its own to agree or reject decisions made by PCTs. It can only refer matters it has concerns about to the health secretary, who has the final say.

Because of this, it is felt that the role of scrutiny should be to assess how proposals fit in to the bigger picture, rather than to evaluate individual issues in isolation.

Michael Downing, chairman of the committee, said: 'By drawing up a detailed picture of future health service provision across Hertfordshire, we will be able to scrutinise primary care trusts proposals in a wider context - helping to ensure that there are no gaps in the essential health services on offer to the people of Hertfordshire.

'We will provide PCTs with the information from this work to help them better fulfil their roles, and at the same time evaluate any implications for our own adult care service.

'Hertfordshire County Council is committed to protecting the best interests of the county's vulnerable and sick residents and we must ensure that the totality of health service cuts does not put their welfare at risk.'

Independent health experts SDC Consulting have been contracted to establish how Hertfordshire will be served by the health service once all the recovery plans are in place, and what the impact of those plans will be on the county council's adult care services department will be.

The outcome of SDC's research should be presented to county councillors and representatives of district councils in November.

The committee was also concerned about the further review of acute services by PCTs in Hertfordshire. Councillors stressed the need for the possible impact of the review on the existing Investing In Your Health and Investing In Your Mental Health strategies - including the proposals for new hospitals at Watford and Hatfield, and new surgicentres - to be made clear at the earliest opportunity.

The results of the review are also expected to be presented to the committee in November.

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