Health Committee Press Notice No 19

20 April 2007
Session 2006-07

Patient and Public Involvement in the NHS

PPI has a key role to play in the NHS and social care but NHS bodies and social care commissioners need to undertake it more effectively so that consultations are not seen as a sham,  the Health Select Committee says.

The Health Committee today publishes its Third Report of Session 2006-07 on Patient and Public Involvement in the NHS (HC 278-I) which looks at a number of issues relevant to the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill which is currently awaiting its report stage in the House of Commons. The report deals both with major consultations and the operations of LINks (the new bodies the Government proposes to create) .

The report concludes that patient and public involvement (PPI) has a key role to play in bringing about service improvement and improving public confidence in the NHS and social care.  It also acknowledges that many NHS bodies and social care commissioners have conducted PPI effectively.

However, public trust has to be earned and is easily broken. Sham consultations must be avoided by beginning the process at an early stage and taking the public’s opinion seriously. 

The report also expresses concern that the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill weakens consultation under ‘Section 11’  by restricting it to significant’ decisions.  It concludes there is no need to change the law, recommending the Government instead takes steps to encourage NHS bodies to undertake consultation in accordance with Section 11 and its associated guidance.

The Secretary of State’s interventions following extensive local consultations threaten to undermine public confidence in the consultation procedure. The Secretary of State should refer all Local Authority Overview and Scrutiny Committee  referrals to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. She should also seek the advice of the Panel before exercising her extensive powers to intervene in reconfigurations.

While the establishment of LINks to replace Patient and Public Involvement Forums (PPIfs) provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen the Patient and Public Involvement system,  the report also concludes the change was not altogether necessary and speculates that it may have been driven more by the need to abolish the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health. Merging the existing PPIfs to form LINks would have been much less disruptive for volunteers and increased the chance of them remaining, it says.

To ensure LINks are effective, the Government needs to be more specific about what their priorities should be and to tailor those priorities to what is achievable within their limited budget.

  Kevin Barron MP, chairman of the committee said:

“Many NHS and Social Care organisations have done patient and public involvement well and there should be no reason why others can't. I doubt that further reorganisation is likely to spread best practice unless it is evidence based. I hope that the Department will take note and act on some of our recommendations. I also hope they will be aware that it is essential that existing volunteers are both retained and valued.”

The Health Committee is a Select Committee of the House of Commons.  It is appointed under Standing Order No.152 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department of Health and associated public bodies.  The Committee has the power to send for persons, papers and records. For more information, see the committee’s web site: