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Thursday, 16 October 2008

Links Members are Pissed Off!

Press Release – October 16th 2008

National Association of LINks Members

NALM exposes major problems in development of new care monitoring system

A study by a national patients’ organisation has revealed major problems with the Government’s the new system to monitor health and social care.

LINks – ‘Local Involvement Networks’ replaced Patient’s Forum on April 1st 2008 as the public’s voice on health and social care. They monitor care from the patient’s perspective and are funded through local authorities.

The Report reveals the government has broken its promise that monitoring of hospitals, clinics and care services would continue after the abolition of Forums, and that activities during the transitional period have been bureaucratic - not patient-centred - leaving patients with no independent voice.

Highly experienced would-be LINk members have drifted away during transition, because the local focus on patient care was lost. Many volunteers could only continue monitoring activities out of their own pocket and received no expenses – leaving the unwaged, the chronic sick and other and vulnerable people excluded.

NALM discovered that some local authorities retained large fees from tiny LINks budgets to cover their own costs. Haringey took £64,900 from a 3-year budget of £514k, Sefton £52,934 out of £513K and North Yorks, £68k from a budget of £660k.

The decision by Government and Audit Commission not to audit the establishment of LINks also causes NALM concern. “There is neither the intention nor any mechanism for the DH to monitor the finances and development of the LINks system”, says NALM Chair, Malcolm Alexander

NALM believes it’s a scandal that Government won’t provide LINKs members with state-backed indemnity against injury or being sued for making public statements, which NHS or local authorities hold is against their interests. Indemnity is essential to ensure effectiveness and independence of LINks volunteers.

Malcolm Alexander, Chair of NALM said; “over six months of inactivity in patient involvement across the country, has left patients more vulnerable and weakened public influence in service modernisation and improvement. We now need assurances that the Government will provide:

Urgent support, training and resources to support people to join LINKs in every part of the country and reactivate public monitoring of hospitals, clinics and care services.

Guarantee that people joining LINks will be paid expenses for participation in monitoring activities of health and social care retroactive to April 1st 2008.

Incentives for local authorities to return their excessive fees to LINKs for the use of LINks members for NHS monitoring activities.

Commitment to monitor the development of LINks and the use of finances intended for LINks in liaison with the Audit Commission.

A guarantee to provide of state-backed indemnity for all LINks members


1) The NALM report examines the progress made in the development of LINks in the period April 1st 2008 – August 8th 2008. LINks replaced Patient Forums on April 1st 2008 and are now the main statutory vehicle for the public to influence policy and practice in health and social care in England. The report is based on Freedom of Information Act questions put to all 152 LAs in England with social services’ responsibilities.

2) The study examined:

· The way funding for LINKs has been used so far by Local Authorities

· The contractual relationship with the LINks support organisation – the Host.

· Current state of development of the LINks and readiness for action

· The effectiveness of transitional arrangements which the government promised would provide for an effective transition from Forums to LINks

3) NALM is an independent organisation formed on April 1st 2008 and is lay membership based. It is a registered company with wholly charitable aims and an unregistered charity.

4) In March 2009, NALM will hold its first AGM and elections for Steering Group members to represent each Region in the country.

More information:

Chair of NALM: Malcolm Alexander, 30 Portland Rise, London, N4 2PP

0208 809 6551 or 07817505193. Email:

Vice Chair of NALM: Ruth Marsden, The Hollies, George St, Cottingham, East Yorkshire HU16 5QP

01482849980. Email:

Some of us, who used to be in Public and Patient Involvement Forums, saw this coming. In fact we wrote our concerns and forwarded them, as part of the national consultation that took place. Needless to say, fekk all came of that and I doubt fekk all of any use will come of the LINKS!

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