BRACKNELL Forest’s public health watchdog could be merged with two other bodies from Slough and Windsor and Maidenhead.

Healthwatch is an independent consumer champion which represents residents’ views about the health and social care services they receive in the borough.

Local Berkshire:

Every local authority in the country is required by law to have a Healthwatch board for its area, but Bracknell Forest’s watchdog could soon be merged with its neighbours’ champions in East Berkshire.

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This comes after Bracknell Forest Council’s (BFC) bosses moved to “jointly procure local Healthwatch services in East Berkshire with Slough [Borough Council] (SBC) and the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead” in a decision made last week.

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Thom Wilson, Assistant Director, Commissioning at BFC, told the News: “Our Healthwatch contract is due to end on 30 June 2020.

Local Berkshire:

“As the current contract has already been extended and procurement rules prevent any further extensions, we are working with our partners in Slough and Windsor and Maidenhead to jointly procure a new service.

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“At this early stage, it is unclear whether this will be one joint East Berkshire Healthwatch board or three separate boards.”

Social care chiefs at BFC suggested not procuring with SBC would mean going forward as a single local authority.

This would ‘not be recommended’ as larger contracts are “more attractive” for healthcare providers.

Local Berkshire:

Mr Wilson added: “By combining with our partners and formalising joint work that is already taking place across East Berkshire, the new service will deliver improved value for local residents, while retaining the same cost to the council.

“Once we have selected a successful provider, we will work with the community together to develop Healthwatch in line with best practice for our residents.”

Bracknell Forest Healthwatch declined to comment quoting purdah restrictions.