Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

53. Evidence submitted by Hounslow Primary Care Trust, West Middlesex University Hospital, Ealing Hospital, Ealing Primary Care Trust, Hillingdon Primary Care Trust, Hillingdon Hospitals, West London Mental Health Trust PPI Forum (PPI 141)


  Originally there were Community Health Councils (CHCs). They were made up of 24 members who monitored NHS services in the Borough. 10 members were appointed by the Local Authority, 10 by local voluntary organisations and four by the Secretary of State for Health. Thus they were a fairly representative group of people. Each CHC had a local office often in the high street. CHCs were abolished because they were not sufficiently independent. A Stronger Local Voice proposes to replace PPI Forums with LINks.

  PPI Forums were set up by Act of Parliament and are managed by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH). The Forums have less powers than the CHCs and they do not help patients with complaints, as this part was passed to another organisation. Now these Forums are beginning to get established they are to be abolished and replaced by LINks.

  A Stronger Local Voice says that LINks are to be set as follows: "Each local authority with social services responsibilities will be funded to make arrangements for the establishment of a LINK in its area," and thus the one issue of the CHCs and PPI Forums not being organised by a political organisation are swept under the carpet. Incidentally, this issue was one that every discussion meeting in the consultation period agreed would be a bad thing.

  Local authorities and the NHS work together in providing health and social care, so how can Local Authorities be independent; and how much of the funding for the LINks will be swallowed up by local authority administration costs. The money provided to the local authorities to establish LINks must be ring fenced for that purpose alone. It appears that appointments onto the LINks could be at the whim of Local Council Committees.

  If the new LINks do not have the power of access premises providing NHS services, many Trusts will breathe a sigh of relief. Without regular monitoring/inspections the LINks will not have the information they need to help the Trusts to improve. At this time all Trusts are saving money and having to make cuts or reductions, monitoring visits to see how services are affected at the point of delivery are so important.

  Who will be the loser, the patient of course, but the Government says the LINks will have greater opportunity to discuss the issues and with more people. But without any powers LINks will be just talking shops, with no real involvement in improving the patient experience.

  LINks need to be supplemented by a regional and national organisation that would allow them to link into the whole community in England. Then LINks could become the organisation that the Government say they want. Even more important they could become the organisation that the Public and Patients want and deserve.

  Members feel that if there was a real commitment to patient involvement LINks would be strengthened and better funded.

  The Forums' Key Messages to the Government are:

    —  Ensure that LINks are independent.

    —  Give the statutory powers the Forums have to LINks

    —  Strengthen legislation to ensure that LINks have to be consulted.

    —  Support the LINks by word and deed.

    —  Support the Public and make a long term commitment to PPI.

    —  Provide the necessary finance to ensure that PPI can be done.

Geoff Morgan

West London Inhouse Forum Support Team

January 2007

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