Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hands Off Patient Forums

On Monday the government will ask the House of Commons to scrap patient forums when the ludicrously misnamed "Local government and Public Involvement" bill comes up for it's second reading.

The Bill proposes abolition both of the Commission for patient and Public Involvement, and the 400 patient and public forums, which themselves have much less power than the Community Health Councils they replaced.

Typically, Tony Blair made a speech on Friday in which he said how valuable "patient power" is, three days before his government proposes to get rid of the bodies they set up to facilitate that power. There is a suggestion that instead the government will try to set up networks for public involvement operating through local councils, but the government has not said much about how this will operate.

In an area like West Cumbria where our hospital services are under threat, this may well mean that another of the channels through which we can lobby to save our services is taken away. If so it will be a bad day for the NHS and a bad day for local democracy. It will be interesting to see which MPs have the courage to vote against the bill.


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