Latest from Mad Hatter's Tea Party – a.k.a. Dept. Health

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LINks to be scrapped despite saving £126 million

I read this headline several times –
but yes, the Patients’ Association confirms it’s true.

The Department of Health has released official figures that estimate the money saved by Local Improvement Networks (LINks) was £126 million in the year 2009-10.

A matter for congratulation – surely?  Er – no. Not in today’s mad NHS world.

The Dept. Health says despite this, LINks are to be scrapped;   according to Government plans LINks will now be replaced by *NEW*  new local HealthWatch bodies!

In other words, throw the baby out with the bathwater, scrap whatever worked well, and start all over again.  Just because somthing things didn’t work as well as others.

Imagine what that’s going to cost?

  • Printing, sign writing for all the new signage, etc
  • New Admin staff (on lovely pension and benefits packages, and yes, they will be allowed to keep their redundancy payments when they are transferred over from old LINks).
  • Another Minister is probably hiding in the side-lines to take over, and he/she will need staff, pension plan, etc. etc.  not forgetting adding to the Whitehall driver pool.

Alice would be astonished – I am speechless.  (Some would say that’s a good thing).

Also puzzled.  Surely if part of an organisation has managed to make savings of £126 million, best solution would be to keep the LINk teams that perform well – and scrap the others?

Or am I missing something somewhere?

What are LINks?

LINks were set up in 2008 to allow members of the public and community organisations to improve health and social care services through patient and public feedback to NHS bodies.

However, they have had varied success. Patients’ Association (PA) say, “We have received many calls to our Helpline questioning the effectiveness of LINks, and feedback about successful LINks suggests that a great deal depends on the commitment of individuals”.

However, in our area (Kensington and Chelsea in London) the administration staff work extremely well.  Sitting on the cancer sub-group, we have been asked to comment on the Quality Assessment reports of local hospitals, and were able to point out that one hospital that is particularly bad re mixed wards, hadn’t put anything in report on when they were phasing these out;  we also had numerous other comments to make – which hospitals have taken on board and have had meetings to tell us what they are doing to improve.

And we are setting up teams to go into specific groups to alert them to cancer screening.  Thanks to our Administator, Paula Murphy and her team, letters have been sent out on our behalf which have produced excellent results.

What’s happening

Now, the Government proposes to replace LINks with local HealthWatch bodies, which are to act as ‘consumer champions’ for NHS services.

The Patients Association agrees with the Government that LINks have been disappointing as a group, but are concerned because HealthWatch bodies will be established under the Care Quality Commission (the body that regulates the NHS).   This sounds like a very incestuous relationship, and  calls into question their scope, independence and transparency.

On this issue, Katherine Murphy, the Chief Executive of the Patients Association, said, “How can the Government say they are going to be independent voices of patients, when they are actually part of the regulator?”

It is vital that there is a strong and independent patient voice that has the opportunity to genuinely shape local services in the NHS if it is to become truly patient-centred. As we found when we looked at hospital QA – reports can fudge issues – but patients KNOW what isn’t working –  and if needed reforms are set out,  we certainly questioned the QAs we were given, sending them back to have more data included, or to make them give better explanations.

In moving forwards with abolishing LINks and setting up HealthWatch, the Department of Health must consider the independence of this patient voice as a priority.

But, having watched Whitehall for many years,  I give HealthWatch two years before the next Minister wanting to’make his/her mark’  decides Healthwatch isn’t working, and sets out to change this.

Or – will someone please get John Lewis, Gerry Robinson or any other top company boss in to tell the little Whitehall mandarins how to run a large organisation?  Because this lot seem as profligate as the last with OUR money.

The PA are battling furiously on behalf of patients, and would welcome new members – see  www.patients-association.com

For more information, see http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2010/dec/29/nhs-local-improvement-networks-links-scrapped.LINks to be scrapped despite saving £126 million

Enhanced by ZemantaIncidentally, Google for once wasn’t much help.  Keying in ‘Getting rid of LINks’  – it came up with lots of advice on how to stop porn sites linking in.  But nothing on ‘our’ LINks.

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