Gambling with the Public Voice in Health

The Government’s plans to reform the public voice in health are ill thought through and unworkable – according to the patient’s watchdog, the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health.

Giving evidence to the Health Select Committee, Sharon Grant, Chair of the Commission, heavily criticised the plans, saying the proposed new system was an irresponsible gamble, and  being set up to fail.

Speaking on behalf of the Commission’s 400 statutory Patient and Public Involvement Forums, she said that there was huge concern that their abolition was a serious mistake, and that their replacement by ill-defined local involvement networks (LINks) had not been adequately thought through.

“We can see no reason to tear up the good work currently under way by PPI Forums across the country, or to go through the pain and delay involved in setting up yet another system. At a time when there is huge public interest in the reform of the NHS, we need to build on solid achievements under existing arrangements.

“Whilst we agree on the need to strengthen the voice of the public in health and social care, current proposals will be seen as weakening it at a critical time. The system will be strapped for cash from the outset, and duplication of functions at local level will waste what resources are available. Local LINks are a vague concept, and will have fewer powers to investigate local services – and they will have no national voice. Without adequate resources and support they will face an unmanageable task over huge geographical areas, and will be unable to engage with those whose needs are often the greatest in health.”

“The need for a powerful public voice in health is greater today than it has ever been – and guesswork about what might work - and cost public money - is just not good enough!  We urge Parliament to think very carefully indeed about what is now before it.”


For more information, please contact Sharon Hinds-Davis, National Communications Lead at the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, telephone: 0121 222 4538 or email:

Notes to Editor

  • PPI Forums began operation in December 2003 after almost 5,000 volunteers were recruited to the 572 PPI Forums. There is a Forum for every NHS Trust, Primary Care Trust, and Foundation Trust in England.
  • Forums gather views about health services and make recommendations, influencing NHS services. They monitor the quality of local services, and look at how wider issues such as social care, transport or housing affect health.
  • The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health is an independent, non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department of Health. Its remit is to ensure that the public is involved in decision making about health and health services. The Commission has its National Centre in Birmingham with nine Regional Centres across England.
  • PPI Forum Timeline:

January 2003: CPPIH established to oversee a new system of PPI
1 December 2003: PPI Forums go live
22 July 2004: DoH announce – ‘ the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) will be abolished in summer 2006 and stronger, more efficient arrangements will be put in place to provide administrative support and advice to Patients' Forums’ 
July 2005: DOH announce CPPIH abolition to be postponed until Summer of  2007
14 February 2006: DoH to conclude PPI review by setting up a PPI panel 
July 2006: DoH announce a new direction for PPI, the replacement of PPI Forums with Local Involvement Networks.  

  • Forums continue to work on a wide range of health subjects, including dentistry, waiting times, hospital food and transport. Practically every Forum can highlight an area where they have had a positive impact, contributing to improvements for the consumers of health services and ensuring patients and the public have a say. To view some of the impacts Forums have made in their local areas, visit the Knowledge Management System, Shaping Health Network>News>PPI Network.
  • Details of the CPPIH's work are on our website

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