A 'LACK of co-operation' row has broken out between the Airedale NHS Trust boss and the district health watchdog over the suggested merger of health service Trusts in the Bradford district.

In a New Year message, the chairman of the Airedale Community Health Council (ACHC), Councillor Peter Putwain, accused Trust bosses of adopting defensive, parochial and pedestrian attitudes, instead of co-operating with members of the ACHC.

He also said that the suggestion of Trust mergers appeared to send the Airedale Health Trust board into 'panic and hysteria,' leading to claims that local health services would be reduced and removed.

"I do not tend to dwell upon this because the whole period was one of negativity, and was intensely parochial in character,' said Coun Putwain.

A statement released by Bob Allen, the Trust chief executive, said members of the board were surprised and saddened by the content of Coun Putwain's message.

"There has been no panic and hysteria. Co-operation and collaboration are a way of life for the Trust, which has the most complex partnership environment of any Trust in the country," said Mr Allen.

He added: "We have been particularly co-operative with the Community Health Council.

"Its chairman and chief officer meet with the chairman and chief executive of the Trust every six weeks, when a frank and comprehensive review is made of health services."

Coun Putwain's New Year message was full of praise for staff at the hospital, but he called for the members of the board to be open and honest with the public.

"Airedale will only be able to enhance, improve, and expand its services if it can show that it is performing well, being open and honest with the public and the CHC, and co-operating with other health service professionals not just immediately locally but with the rest of the National Health Service," said Coun Putwain.

Coun Putwain's message mentioned the Government Health Secretary Frank Dobson's call for co-operation in the health service rather than competition.

Coun Putwain said: "In this 50th anniversary year of the NHS I call upon the Airedale Trust to make those words a reality. I ask them not only to co-operate more with ourselves, but also with the other Trusts in Bradford, to enhance the services of Airedale.

But Mr Allen said the message contained no examples of where the Trust board at Airedale had failed to co-operate with the CHC.

"It is stating the obvious to say that the CHC chairman's message is, itself, hardly a collaborative initiative."

He added: "The Government has set the agenda for health through its White Paper, and Airedale will play its full part in responding to that agenda.

"We shall debate the issues in the interests of our patients - we shall not simply follow rhetoric."

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