THE chairman of the county’s official health and social care watchdog has quit over rows with “hostile” and “unpleasant” board members.

Healthwatch Oxfordshire’s Larry Sanders stepped down after walking out of a board meeting of the group last week.

He said: “The hostility from two of 10 board members made it quite unpleasant.”

The city resident, 79, said he left last Tuesday’s meeting at the King’s Centre, Oxford, over plans to appoint a new manager.

Interim chief executive David Roulston is to step down as planned next Friday after six months in the job.

Mr Sanders said the board wanted to appoint another interim manager until a permanent chief executive starts next month.

He said: “It was a bad idea. They would be on £400, £500 a day and can’t do much until they know the ropes.”

But a Healthwatch statement said Mr Sanders, pictured, resigned because “his version of the minutes of a board meeting was unanimously rejected by the Healthwatch Oxfordshire board members”.

Mr Sanders was not available for comment on this point.

The former Green Party member of Oxfordshire County Council said he always planned to step down when a permanent chief executive started.

He said: “I hoped I would have hung on but we are in a good shape to go.”

Healthwatch – which has a £347,137 budget this year – replaced Local Involvement Networks (LINks) on April 1, 2013, in England under a national shake-up. But county board members started in August after Oxfordshire County Council delays finding an organisation to run it.

In September the Oxford Mail reported two board members had quit over demands of the role alongside £40,000-a-year director Rosalind Pearce who cited personal reasons.

All board members with the watchdog, which holds the county’s health services to account, are voluntary.

Healthwatch projects include a patient survey on GP access and campaigning about staff whistleblowing.

Oxford East Labour MP Andrew Smith said: “We need Healthwatch to pull together as an effective and independent voice for local patients.”

Banbury Conservative MP Sir Tony Baldry said: “It is obviously a matter of concern because this is the body which is meant to represent the patient voice in Oxfordshire.”

Vice-chairwoman Jean Nunn-Price has been appointed interim chairman.

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