Last update 8th. April 2005
From Barry Peskin
WOULD refer to Marc Mullen's article I (Volunteers quit health watchdog, H&H March 25). While in no way competent to comment upon those particular matters associated with the resignation of Hilary Barnard, someone whom I have considerable respect for, my own experience may be interesting to your readers.
Patient Forums are intended to involve the public in the running of their local NHS services and as such they are to be welcomed, supported and encouraged.
However, they have been clumsily set up and have become over bureaucratic and too focussed upon administration.
As a one time member of the Camden Community Health Council I became involved with the setting up of a Pilot Forum whose object was to smooth the way for the actual forum setting out the many advantages that could accrue to the community and identifying problems that could arise.
I was subsequently appointed to the Camden PCT Patient Forum.
I resigned within two or three months of the setting up of the forum as it became abundantly clear that the watch dog CCPIH was or appeared to be staffed by inexperienced untrained personnel without leadership and with no clear idea of what their role should be.
More serious was the part being played by the Community Investors Development agency (CIDA). Their staff were even more unclear as to the role of the agency and had little or no understanding that they were there to support the Forum Board and its members, provide administration as part of that support and to finance the work of the forum within an agreed budget.
My experience as a board member proved to me that they saw their role as that of controlling the forum, not supporting it.
This had the effect of negating the purpose of the forum by moving the whole process away from the community itself to a centre that was not accountable to it.
It was for this reason that I resigned and it appears the reason why Hilary Bamard and others have now taken the same route.
Something needs to be done urgently to rectify the situation or this experiment in NHS community democracy will be con-fined to the dustbin and that would be a tragedy.
Ham and High 8 April 2005