Last update 15th. May 2004


The Editor

Health Service Journal

Greater London House

Hampstead Road



Dear Editor,

Patient and Public Involvement in Health

The new system for public scrutiny of the NHS, established by the "Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health" (CPPIH) is already struggling for life. After only one year of existence, CPPIH (in partnership with the Government) has managed to bring Statutory patient involvement in the English NHS to its knees. The new Patients' Forums established by CPPIH have virtually no resources, facilities or infrastructure and it is reported that many have only three or four members who attend meetings. They have little capacity to scrutinize the NHS.

CPPIH have spent about £27million in their first year. They gave assurances that new Patients' Forums with at least seven members would be established by December 1st 2003 - the date on which the Statutory NHS watchdogs, Community Health Councils were abolished.

Instead they have set up a network of smart new offices for themselves, leaving pitifully few resources for the Patients' Forums - the front line, which should have been adequately resourced to carry out the major task of monitoring health services for patients, little capacity to scrutinize the NHS.

As Members of the new London Ambulance Service Patients' Forum, we only have access to a meagre few hours of administrative support each month. We have no office, no photocopier and no computer, and virtually no support or resources to develop the new patients' involvement system, or carry out the task of monitoring health services. The so-called "Knowledge Management System" which CPPIH promised us is still not available to Forum members. Patients' Forums are completely hidden from the patients and communities they have a statutory duty to represent and will remain so, because they have no means of establishing themselves as visible bodies serving the public interest.

Rosie Winterton the Health Minister told Parliament on November 12th 2003* that she, "looks forward to the time when Patients' Forums will flourish in local areas and fulfil the exciting and innovative role set for them". Was this just spin, or what, in more honest times we would have called the "language of parliamentary expediency"? It appears that in the hands of CPPIH, the Patients' Forums have already been strangled.

Yours truly

Malcolm Alexander, Chair Mary Arayo, John Britt, Vishy Harihara, William G. Marks, Lena Wanford

Members of the Patients' Forum for the London Ambulance Service

*Hansard -Seventh Standing Committee on Delegated Legislation, November 12th, 2003