Last update 27th. June 2004
COMMUNITY action groups have been established to give people a say in how their health services are provided, but unfortunately, the community has yet to respond.
The first public meeting of the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forum for the University College London Hospitals NHS Trust recently took place in Euston.
PPI forums are the latest government initiative to give the public a say in the health of their communities and similar meetings have been taking place all over the borough.
Set up six months ago, the 571 forums have replaced the 200 community health councils, and although partnered with a trust, they are independent of them, behaving like a critical friend.
They are supported by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health.
The forum members are themselves patients and members of the public who have given up their spare time for the cause. But their commitment has not yet been matched by everyone else; a repeated theme of the first forum meetings has been low attendance.
The patients and public the forums are looking to represent, don't seem to be that interested in turning up.
Janet Albu, acting chair at the UCLH meeting who has 40 years of health service experience, hopes that as the profile of the forums grow, more people will attend.
She said: "Itís about transparency. People should have the opportunity to say what their concerns are and they have the right to do that anonymously or stand up and be counted, using us as a conduit."
The UCLH Trust forum has responsibility for eight hospitals: the Eastman Dental Hospital, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Obstetric Hospital, the Heart Hospital, Hospital for Tropical Diseases, the Middlesex Hospital, University College Hospital, National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital.
Mrs Albu said: "We have the right to go into the hospitals with very little notice and talk to anyone who is around.
"We are not going to invade consultations or force people to talk to us but we can go into the snack bar or into the waiting areas and talk to patients and if something is concerning them, we can try and help."
A spokeswoman for CIDA, the organisation which helps organise the work of 15 of the 16 forums in north central London, said: "Numbers who have attended meetings in public have varied, though there have never been more than a few dozen people.
"The forum members have a heavy responsibility at a time of rapid change - new GP contracts, changes in NHS finances and foundation trusts are just a few of the issues with which forums have had to get to grips in recent months."
Mrs Albu feels hopeful about what the UCLH Trust forum can achieve before its next open meeting on October 13.
She said: "I hope we can get a lot done before then and see a lot of people at that meeting.
"It is really important to stress that we are totally independent of the hospitals.
"We will work with the trust as much as possible but are not afraid to disagree with them if we have to."
Anyone interested in joining a PPI forum or finding out more about the work they aim to do should contact the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health on 0845 120 7115 or visit www.cppih.org
Camden New Jounal Thursday 17th June 2004
Janet Albu adds: Forum members present were Veronica Brinton, Imogen von Halle, David Shepherd, Jessica Skippon, and Natasha Zeital. Julie Firth represented the UCLH Trust.
Our next open meeting will be on Wednesday October 13th. Friends House at 6:30 again