A POWERFUL new health watchdog is up and running and promises to get a better deal for patients in Worcestershire.

Worcestershire Healthwatch is now the county’s consumer champion for driving up standards, flagging up complaints and voicing opinions about the NHS.

As the county’s official NHS watchdog, Healthwatch is being backed by a Government budget of £321,000.

The independent, non-profit company has existed in a shadow form since January becoming an official statutory body at the start of the month.

It has now moved into its own offices in Pershore and is chaired by Peter Pinfield, who said its role is about listening, signposting and influencing.

“Worcestershire Healthwatch will collect and present the views and experiences of local service users to managers and decision-makers in health and social care settings,” he said.

“It will take an active part in the decision-making process of the county health and wellbeing board and work closely with three new clinical commissioning groups, local NHS trusts and the voluntary sector to ensure the decisions about priorities and services are based on the needs and experiences of local people.”

Mr Pinfield said he and his small team of staff, headed up by chief operating officer Simon Adams, will be liaising closely with Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission – essentially the Ofsted inspector of the healthcare world – to ensure patients are getting the best possible healthcare.

Worcestershire County Council signed the final contract allowing Healthwatch to become the county’s official watchdog last month with members saying that they are confident it will make a positive difference.

Councillor Marcus Hart, the cabinet member for health, said: “We’ve got an excellent chairman in Peter Pinfield and executive directors with vast amounts of experience. I believe it will be of benefit to people across the whole county.”

Worcestershire Healthwatch is planning an official public launch in early May and can be contacted on 01386 550264, healthwatchworcestershire@gmail.com or at Healthwatch Worcestershire, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Pershore, WR10 1PT.