Sharon Grant, Chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) has said that the wide ranging review of NHS services5 must generate new thinking on patient and public involvement. Current proposals to reform the system should be put on hold while the Review is underway, and patients and the public must be fully involved in the consultation.
She states: “It is inconceivable that this “once in a lifetime” review centres only on the grievances of professionals, practitioners and managers in health. They have historically been well organised and able to influence policy. This has not been the case for patients and we must redress that balance when envisioning the future for the NHS and for the health of the nation.”
Mrs Grant makes her remarks at a time when patient and public involvement has been placed under the microscope. Currently, the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill is before Parliament. It will abolish PPI Forums and set up Local Involvement Networks (LINks) – a new system that has been heavily criticised both in and out of Parliament.
“The proposed LINks system will weaken NHS accountability to patients, and a review which simply plays to the concerns of professional interests will be disastrous. As the recent Picker report4 showed many of them already belittle public involvement, and don’t take it seriously.”
The Secretary of State has said that a main objective of the review is to secure an NHS which is accountable to patients and local communities. Many feel it would be foolish to go ahead with the abolition of PPI Forums and the creation of LINks, whilst the Review is on-going.
She comments, “I have therefore written to Alan Johnson to ask him to seriously consider whether the reforms currently proposed in the Local Government and Public Involvement Bill are appropriately timed, and whether they would be best reviewed and refined as part of Professor Darzi’s Review.”
Ruth Marsden, Vice Chair of the National Association of Patients’ Forum Steering Group (NASG) also comments, "The Government's drive to force the introduction of LINks is misguided and regressive. No-one has asked for LINks. The call from all quarters to retain PPI Forums has been consistent, reasoned, and well evidenced.
Well being, safety and quality of experience are what matter to patients. Accountability, transparency and real influence are what matters to the public. PPI Forums are uniquely placed to ensure this for their locality. To lose PPI Forums to LINks would be more than ill-advised, it would be a disaster. The National Association of Forums will expect a meeting with the Health Minister and with Sir Ara Darzi at the earliest opportunity."