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A Scarborough health spokesman says he is concerned that the patient voice “could be lost” with the end of patient groups in their current format at the end of March.

Leo McGrory, chairman of Scarborough and District Local Involvement Network (LINK), says there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Healthwatch, the new organisation due to come in and take the place of LINKs groups.

He explained: “I’ve sensed that within Healthwatch, there’s little meaningful public involvement.

“The fact that there hasn’t been any real public consultation about the changes is seriously worrying.

“It’s a little over two months away and people don’t seem to know what’s happening with it all.

“It’s a crucial time in healthcare, with many changes happening nationally and at a local level, so if people want to challenge something, what are they going to do?”

Mr McGrory added that he had been “fighting for information”, along with LINKs colleagues across the country.

However, Bryon Hunter, scrutiny team leader at North Yorkshire County Council, says that the matter is in hand and that the comments from LINKs are unfair.

He explained: “We’ve been trying to keep LINKs aware of what’s happening.

“I’ve been leading on the procurement process to find an organisation to represent the area for Healthwatch.

“We’re about involving people at a grass roots level and our job is to commission an organisation to involve people in doing that.”

Mr Hunter said the group will engage with the public, carrying out surveys and holding public meetings.

The organisation will be accountable to the county council, but also needs to be independent as well.

Mr Hunter explained: “Healthwatch has to be a social enterprise. We’ve been speaking to people like the local Community and Voluntary Service (CVS), Citizens Advice Bureau and advocacy support agencies.”

He added that the contract will be awarded this month.

The county council has been engaging with the community and has spoken to more than 100 people through a series of workshop events.