Interim Chairman Healthwatch Devon
RE: Election process HW Devon
Thank you for your letter of yesterday, 3-02-14. The delay of about 5 days is regrettable due largely to incorrect addressing of your e-m to me. You must have been tired because I received a shorter e-m from you that evening of 27-02-14. And I wrote this, that same evening to make sure you had it right -
I am yet to receive your response to my first e-mail addressed to you this last Sunday night. You referred to your response in the e-mail below - highlighted. It has obviously gone astray. Do please re-send it.
However, we are not automatons.
I thank you for replying (e-mail below) and for taking trouble. I will make a few observations using my/your numbers. But first - I am pleased you found value in my feedback re the election process (EP). You understood my concern that there had been no reference during our 'conversation' to the intention (now clear) that certain candidates would be recommended, albeit with the proviso that voters could vote for whom they wished! This remains a central concern of mine. That you want a spread of experience and interests is understood; you three might have expressed that to me. But not to be open about it, and especially how you intended to achieve it, is not excused.
I had taken the trouble to ask Miles about the conversation before it happened. He has been rapid and courteous in his reponses -
Sent: 10 February 2014 09:44
To: Miles Sibley
Subject: Re: Healthwatch Devon candidate interviews
10-02-14 Dear Miles, Whilst turning over possible topics in my mind to bring to the three people below, I wondered what place these meetings with candidates will have in the election process. I am right in thinking that the election is made solely by the members? All the best
Yes David – election is by the members. The Wednesday meeting is with the Interim Chairman John Rom, who will stand for election to the new trustee body, but does not intend to put himself forward for Chairman.
The other two (Bob and Elaine) represent the Community Council of Devon, which is the accountable body for the Healthwatch contract. They will be working with John to ensure that candidates understand the role they are taking on, and to answer any questions about the Community Council/Healthwatch relationship. They will not be taking any part in the election process.
I hope this helps, but feel free to call me if you want. Thanks, Miles
(DSH No mention of recommendation)
The EP is tainted by preferment/recommendation, and by concealment of this purpose in the conversation which took place. The spread you seek might well have been achieved without any such loading of the dice, or with Mr Ollie Grice in mind, any nobbling.
The listed points below :-
1. We agree. Paper spews at us; it is easy to put an AGM form away on the mantelpiece.
2. Kafka - let it pass. I was being ironic.
3. We have discussed this. But I might be a fair example of a citizen whose experience extends well outside his chosen field. I mentioned our fostering in my application and how one 16 yr old who was mentally ill got better in our care. In fact he was going to be confined under 'Section' until we agreed to embrace him. I am simply making the point that rounded candidates might well have most or all of the qualities HW needs; pigeon holing might be unwise. Because I have woodlands I planted, and within Devon Rural Skills teach crafts like making ash hay rakes, I meet a whole variety of men and women. This is not usual for a retired surgeon. I exalt in this. I find the reality. I am grounded.
4. Vote. I cannot see why the voting slips should not simply have a specially printed number - as at our general elections. Unusual font and colour. There could be no cause for any concern then. Say 300 members? 1 > 300. I see the constitution allows for those who have not voted by e-m or mail to vote at the AGM. I am glad the uncertainties of that, given 7 to choose, has not been included in the arrangements.
5. I understand why you did not include this in the candidates' details, given you had not asked for them. We agree they are important. No doubt the question will be included on the application form next time. I understand too, that there might be a distinctly unfair advantage if such qualifications as mine are set against say, a postman and citizen who has as much to give.
6. I believe the candidate that I knew a bit about has resigned from a body. If he/she had not, then there would have been a conflict of interest.
'Travesty of democracy' was too strong. This reflected my feelings. I withdraw that but I continue to object on several good grounds to the EP as set out. You are obviously not changing tack. I do not think further discussion is likely to get us further John **. I will take independent legal advice; it is clear that HW UK has nothing to offer in this direction. I will keep my place as a candidate knowing that by an immeasurable degree I am less well placed to be voted a trustee, as indeed are the others who were not so favoured. My reckoning is that HW Devon could have achieved a broad base of trustees without any unlawful gerrymandering.
Finally, I remain uncertain about the references. You will recall your words and my reply:-
2. References were not taken into account before the six candidates were identified for recommendation. As you know, there was no mention at the 'conversation' with Ms Cook, Mr Bryant and yourself of any recommendation being made to the voters. However, if there was some point in meeting the candidates, you would surely have wished to read the references alongside the applications. You had them available to you. They were given independently and thus were of value in describing the relevant abilities and probity of the candidates. Now that you raise it - what were your criteria for 'indentification for recommendation' even if that should be valid?
I should be grateful if you could explain further. You presumably had the references along with the application forms at the office of HW before each of the candidates came before you.
a. If these references were not taken into account 'before the six candidates were identified for recommendation' what was the point of requesting them and receiving them for these 6? Or are references so much dross? On the contrary, I have noted above how they might have been of value - bold. Surely this would suggest that the 'recommendation' of these 6 was at worst a 'done deal' or at best done without full knowledge?
b. Were the references used in building a fuller picture of the candidates who were not recommended? If not, what was the point in asking for and receiving 2 references for each candidate?
c. When were the 30 references read and taken account of?
For truth, reason and justice and with kind regards
David (Halpin MB BS FRCS)
PS Without patronage I salute you for speaking plainly re care.data via HW. Sue and I opted out about 7 years ago from the GP<>hospital data base because consultations between patients' and doctors et al are sacred and private, and that they should be confined to the practices and hospitals serving those patients. No one should ever be inhibited in expressing themselves to doctors and other professional staff. In correspondence with the office in Leeds I have said this and more. including that the value of such data sharing is largely illusory.
Forgive any typos. I type and read one eyed, having a common 'celophane maculopathy of the L.
From: John Rom
Sent: 27 February 2014 18:03
Cc: Miles Sibley; Elaine Cook
Subject: re Healthwatch Devon election of Trustees
Dear Mr Halpin
Thank you for sending your letter of 23rd February concerning the Healthwatch trustee election process. Although disappointed that you were not happy with the process I was pleased to receive your detailed feedback as I trust my response below will enable you to feel more positively about our intentions.
I was glad to learn that our recent conversation, together with Elaine Cook and Bob Bryant, was useful but if there was no reference to the intention to indicate recommendations to Healthwatch members I can understand your concern. The aim, which had been previously discussed by the interim board including the Community Council representatives, was to indicate to the members how a balance of necessary skills and experience could be achieved. Incidentally a similar process is used by other charities such as the Parkinson's Disease Society and The National Trust.
In response to your six specific points may I add the following:
1 I do accept that the type size on the voting form means some people may miss their vote if they give the form only a cursory glance. We must take this into account when setting up next year's election.
2 Your comment regarding Kafka is not clear. I can only assume it is not meant to be complementary.
3 In addition to my comment above the balance of skills and experience included, for example, those with professional health and social care experience and those with lay experience such as family carers, individuals with a commercial background and those with voluntary organisation experience.
4 I understand your concern about adding your name to the outside of the voting envelope but I can assure you that this is simply to ensure 'one person one vote'. The complete envelopes are being collected for the scrutineers to record and open when the votes are counted.
5 I did advise you when we met that the candidates' qualifications could be included. In fact we did not have this information for all candidates, having not asked for this in the application as it was not seen as relevant to the role. To have indicated qualifications for some but not all candidates would have drawn justifiable criticism. Nevertheless, I apologise that the information to members was different from your expectation.
6 You may recall that the application did ask candidates to confirm that they held no position which under the Healthwatch constitution would be seen as a conflict of interest. We can confirm that, as far as we are aware, all candidates were eligible at the date of standing ie 19th February. If you have information contrary to this I would wish to know straight away please.
I am sorry that you believe the process is 'a travesty of democracy' as we have done our best to ensure that it is fair, legal and constitutional. I have not taken up your invitation to postpone the election or re-issue the voting papers but I would be happy to discuss your concerns further if you wish.
In the meantime may I thank you for giving me the opportunity to respond to your detailed concerns and I trust you will find this explanation acceptable. I have also copied my response to Elaine Cook, chief executive of the Community Council for Devon which is responsible for the overall Healthwatch Devon contract.
Please see below my emails which I now see were sent to an incorrect address. My accept my apologies.
First Floor, 3 & 4 Cranmere Court
Matford Business Park
Exeter EX2 8PW
From: John Rom
Sent: 28 February 2014 14:16
Subject: FW: re Healthwatch Devon election of Trustees
I was surprised when you indicated that the first email had not been received so I now forward this in the hope that this time it will reach you!
I would be more than happy to meet and discuss these issues if you would wish to do so.
First Floor, 3 & 4 Cranmere Court
Matford Business Park
Exeter EX2 8PW