Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

28. Evidence submitted by East of England Ambulance PPI Forum (PPI 124)

  We are writing on behalf of the Forum members of what was previously covering the East Anglian Ambulance Trust area. We now form part of the larger Forum membership covering the new East of England Ambulance Trust.

  We were represented at the All Party Parliamentary Group reception on the 30th October last and wish to add our comments to your Committee's evidence on the inquiry into the future of patient and public involvement in the NHS.


  We are concerned after barely three years the government is proposing to abolish Forums and substitute LINks. It appears that the main contact will be Overview and Scrutiny Committees, which have a very wide remit covering health and social care.

  Whilst this local group within the new Forum has good informal contacts with the three OSC's of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridge it is felt that any new arrangement, indeed line of contact, will take some time to develop effectively. This at a time, when the rate of investment in the NHS is slowing, and further pressures will be put on Trusts to maintain quality services. This will need careful monitoring by a patient organisation.


  The draft proposals to hand indicate that local government will fund the LINks with money provided centrally. This money, we understand will not be ring fenced. This local group is not satisfied that adequate funds will be available to:

    (a)  Resource the work of LINk members.

    (b)  Adequately support the costs of a support staff in the way FSO's are funded at present.

    (c)  Make it increasingly difficult for any project work requiring even modest funds to be carried out. We assume that a competitive bidding process would be required for limited funds and this would take time. We accept that any proposal would require clear justification but in the light of recent experience feel that the process would be tortuous.

  LINks would need to be transparently funded with members being aware of the sums available. Adequate resources should be made available for marketing and publicity, which has not been the case for the current PPI Forums.


  It is essential that LINks as presently proposed should:

    (a)  Be seen to be autonomous.

    (b)  Not subservient to OSC's but equal in their dealings with Trusts.


  Any Public & Patient group with statutory powers should:

    (a)  Fully represent all who make use of the NHS.

    (b)  Draw members from across the community by means of selection and co-option.

    (c)  Have full rights, within agreed protocols, for access to all areas and services provided by the NHS and associated organisations.

    (d)  Be part of the consultation process on the provision and alteration of NHS services.

    (e)  Within the regulations establishing such groups, be fully autonomous and independent of control by the Department of Health.


  The new Public and Patient groups, be they LINks or any other arrangement, should be part of a regional structure, co-terminus with the current SHA's and with a small national structure provided to ensure that co-operation and liaison on important national issues are covered.


  The new LINks or groups should have a clearly defined right of appeal to the Secretary of State.


  It is felt most emphatically that it would be better to delay any change in the present structure, to ensure, that any new structure is robust and has the confidence of the public, patients and the NHS.


  Given the background and experience of the members of the Forum, we would welcome the opportunity to give verbal comment on our experience over the last three years and our hopes for patient and public involvement in the future of the NHS.

  Whatever policy is finally implemented should be robust, effective and structured in such a way as to have the confidence and enthusiastic support of the community at large. The NHS would then be truly world beating.

Jon Rapley

Vice Chair, East of England Ambulance PPI Forum

10 January 2007

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