I've, at last, had a reply from the new acting manager of the NVS Forum Support Organisation who appears to be pleasantly co-operative. This has cleared up my fears of the Chair of the Norfolk PCT Forum being a member of the trust it operates for. it says:
Thank you for your enquiry and apologies for the delay in responding to your request.
In answer to your questions;
I can confirm categorically that no member of the Norfolk PPI Forum is or ever has been during their time as a PPI Forum member an employee or a member of Norfolk PCT .
Tony Darwood, Chair of the PPI Forum does have a seat on the Board with speaking rights but not voting rights. Esther Harris and David Routledge are the two Deputy Chairs of the Forum and can deputise in Tony’s absence.
Tony Darwood is the Norfolk PPI Forum representative on the Norfolk PCT Board, in his absence either of the Deputy Chairs can take that role in representing the Forum.
I can confirm that under the aegis of the Forum Support Organisation, part of NVS, we have no members who are also members or employees of the Trusts that they monitor.
OK, but is it really satisfactory that a PPI Forum should have direct contacts in this way with the trust they are set up to monitor? My own view is that there needs to be an objective distance in place to prevent any chance of subtle manipulation and to facilitate adverse criticism of the trust where necessary. Remember that at least part of a NHS trust's board meetings are held in public and there is the opportunity for anyone to observe proceedings. There is also a regulatory requirement for trusts to supply any relevant information to the PPI Forum.
So it has to be asked: Why is it thought that the Norfolk PCT PPI Forum should have this arrangement when there are more objective means of contact available. Some of the possible answers, amongst probable legitimate reasons, could be: elitism; status pursuit; embedded interests; or tokenism. That makes me feel very uneasy!