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Thursday, 24 July 2014

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Cumbria health board hopefuls lay out their views on NHS provision

HUNDREDS of millions in public money are spent on health services in Cumbria every year, but who holds the purse strings and how do we hold them to account?

Meet the candidates:

Many people will not have a clue who decides how the county’s eye-watering £1,395,743,000 NHS budget for the next two years will be spent; never mind how to influence their decisions.

But a pioneering new scheme is aiming to give residents in Furness the chance to make their voices heard – whether about GP waiting times, quality of hospital care, access to services or anything else important to people in the area.

Elections will take place on Thursday for the first time giving locals the chance to vote for one of six candidates to look health leaders in the eye and demand action.

Since 2012 clinical commissioning groups, led by local GPs, have controlled how money is spent on hospitals and community and mental health care services.

CCGs are divided into smaller localities, each with their own governing bodies.

But for the first time since their creation, members of the public will get the chance to join these bodies as “lay representatives” in a bid to increase public influence on local health services.

NHS Cumbria CCG’s Furness locality, which covers Barrow, Ulverston and Millom, will allow the public to elect candidates rather than appointing them through its governing body.

Deputy lead GP for Furness, Dr Arabella Onslow, who is co-ordinating the project, says the governing body want to be joined by a lay representative with a real “public mandate”.

She told the Evening Mail: “This is the start of GPs and health leaders listening to the public so we can learn from their ideas on how we can improve services.”

Lead GP Dr Geoff Jolliffe claimed the scheme could make Furness locality “one of the best” governing bodies in the country.

As well as one elected candidate, the governing body will appoint a second lay rep and are considering whether to appoint a third.

The lay representatives would be expected to fully participate in the local executive monthly meetings.

Dr Onslow said: “I’m thrilled by the quality of candidates, but the remaining candidates not appointed will be involved in some way. We still want to make use of the resources.”

The election will take place at a “listening event” on Thursday June 26 at the Forum in Duke Street, Barrow, from 6pm.

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