Headlines: February 13th, 2007



Plans to replace Public and Patient Involvement Forums for health and social care have been heavily criticised by Sharon Grant, Chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health. The PPI Forums gather views about health services and make recommendations. They monitor the quality of local services and look at how wider issues such as social care, transport or housing affect health. They were established in 2003.

It is now planned to replace the forums with Local Involvement Networks. The new Networks will bring in existing voluntary and community sector groups, as well as interested individuals to promote public and community influence in health and social care.

Sharon Gran said that there was huge concern that the abolition of the forums was a serious mistake and that their replacement by ill-defined local involvement networks had not been adequately thought through. She added: “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. 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.”

PPI forums and Overview and Scrutiny Committees of local authorities have complementary roles in monitoring health and social care. The forums have powers to inspect the places where NHS services are provided and OSC committees have powers to call staff of NHS bodies to explain decisions and proposals. Members of Forums have a patient, carer or member of the public perspective, while the role of councilors has a wider context of a council’s corporate objectives and external partnerships.