Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

140. Evidence submitted by Mr John Wigley (PPI 104)

 (a)   Purpose of patient and public involvement

  It should be to open up the NHS to public scrutiny and have it react to expressed public needs.

 (b)   What form of PPI?

  Preferably quite small groups of people qualified by a combination of ability, interest and experience, who are representative; but not members of pressure groups.

 (c)   Why change after only three years?

  This is something for the Minister to answer. It seems to me that it was premature to announce that PPI Forums were to be scrapped after existing for barely a year.

 (d)   How should LINks be designed, including

    —  Remit and independence. People linked to drugs companies and campaigning pressure groups and NHS employees should not be members.

    —  Membership and appointment. There should be a formal and independent appointment procedure, to try to ensure suitability.

    —  Funding and support. The Bill proposes to give funds to local authorities, but does not ring fence it—a major weakness.

    —  Area of focus. Should be the whole local health economy-acute, PCT and full range of social services, plus ambulance and mental health.

    —  Statutory powers. The PPI Forums had several important powers (the right to advise, inspect, monitor and to see information independent of the Freedom of Information Act), but the LINks will not have these powers- a serious weakness. NB It is being said that trained groups of LINks members will be given the power to inspect, but whereas PPI Forums had the right to inspect NHS premises plus premises of other bodies used by the NHS to provide services, LINks will not have power to inspect the latter, and so Surgi-centres (a growing part of the health economy) will be excluded—THIS IS A GREAT WEAKNESS.

    —  Relations with Health Trusts. The LINks should have the right to send a representative to attend each Trust Board meeting, either as a full member with voting rights, a speaker or observer.

    —  National Coordination. Absolutely vital to have a structure with independent funding from the Ministry.

 (e)   How should LINks relate to and avoid overlap with Local authority structures including Overview and Scrutiny Committees

  It is vital that LINks are not subordinate, but can have independent access to the health economy and Trust Boards, otherwise they will be stifled by local political inertia and in-fighting, achieve nothing and volunteers will leave, so PPI will come to an end. In my view, this is a distinct danger.

John Wigley

Deputy Chair, West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust PPI Forum

(Comments are made as an individual)

10 January 2007

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