This is beautiful pure white snow on Ruth’s part but will it be turned into slush by Mr Johnson? Whatever, Tumultuous applause for the endless work Ruth is doing.
Patient & Public Involvement Forums
National Association of Patients Forums
Vice Chair, National Association of Patients’ Forum
C/o CPPIH, Ground Floor,
Guildford, GU1 1UJ.
Alan Johnson MP
Secretary of State for Health
My abiding thanks for the speedy reply to my letter of 26th October 2007. I must, however, press you further as there are still unresolved pivotal concerns on the matter of access by LINks’ members to NHS care delivered by private providers.
The existing Directions to which you refer specify that contracts with private providers must include provisions requiring private providers to allow entry to Patients Forums and that these contracts must also require those providers to give information to Patients Forums when requested. These Directions date from Dec 1st 2003.
Our concerns are:
-how existing contracts will be altered to allow entry by and information to for the new LINks’ members?
-how contracts pre-dating 2003 will be amended to allow entry by and information to LINks? (Durance of contracts varies. Renewal cycle is not always a mere 3 years)
-PCTs are increasingly looking towards private organisations to assist with commissioning of services. How will your government ensure that these private organisations commissioning services are aware of duties to LINks?
-Many contracts are between NHS Trusts/Foundation Trusts and private service contractors and do not involve PCTs, e.g. ambulance PTS. How will these be brought into the system you describe through Directions?
You write that arrangements as outlined in Directions “have not presented any problems until now”. Sadly, this is not the case. The PPIF for Hull Teaching PCT, the PPI Forum for your own patch and the Forum which hosted the visit you paid us at Goodwin Centre, Hull, has had real difficulty prevailing upon some GPs and dentists and their practice managers to admit the PPI Forum for monitoring visits. The Forum has had attempted to ‘negotiate’ for permission and this was not always forthcoming, and the report that the PPI Forum has written when any visit has been achieved has been subject to censor by the practice involved! I can provide you with evidence of all this. Similarly PTS providers in London are usually uncooperative when requests for information are sent to them.
I do not believe these experiences are unique. Further, we are all aware of how ready the private sector is to invoke “commercial confidentiality” to stall access and inquiries.
It is therefore imperative that the duties of private providers of NHS care towards the new LINks are obvious to all. Directions are an opaque vehicle for so important an obligation and do little raise public confidence in the effectiveness of these services. Private providers are achieving greater access to health care contracts and in some sectors, e.g. social care, already have the majority on contracts (over 80% of people in nursing and care homes are in private providers’ establishments)
I press this point not to be gratuitously vexatious but because I know at first hand the problems of having “duties” laid down in two different sources, one obviously within the legislative framework and Regulation and the other outside of this framework and therefore ‘deemed’ by some less binding. We would like to believe that your Department intends the LINks to work effectively and it would go a long way to restore faith if you were able to act on the concerns detailed above and use the Regulations as a single tool for ensuring universal compliance with the legislation.
I will be writing to you separately about the other issues raised in your letter.
Vice Chair, NAPF