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PPIF/LINks

nickh

nickh

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This one has a whole big history and is obviously very political. What is more I come very late to PPIFs (Patient and Public Involvement Forums) - indeed the only meeting of the Birmingham PPIF I have attended was the one which was its last - this Tuesday (11th March 2008)!!:D.

But - very conscious I may be making a fool of myself - here is my explanation. PPIF's were set up be the Government about 5 years ago. Every Health Trust had to have one and they were meant to be independent monitoring organisations. As far as we are concerned the PPIF in which we are interested is that established for BSMHT. It inspected premises, established a consultation process, and campaigned for and a won a specific Service User presence of the Trust Board. Mostly recently it had its biggest success in forcing Birmingham City Council to consult before changing its Day Service provision. Actually this is a tricky area because formally the PPIF had no powers in relation to Council services, but because the Day Services were jointly run with BSMHT, it got involved (from April 1st Council Day Services will be separate but that's another story).

Anyway the Government has decided to abolish PPIFs and from 31st March they cease to exist. In their place come LINks (Local Involvement Networks). LINks will (DoH propaganda) 'encourage and support local people to get involved in how local care services are planned and run. They will listen to local people about their needs and about their experience of services. LINks will look at all health and social care services in an area that are funded by taxpayers'. Now this is the first key - and most important difference - LINks will be attached to a Council (not a Health Trust) and will consider ALL provision (Council, MHT, PCT, Private and Voluntary Sector).

The tricky bit to understand is that both PPIFs and LINks are actually managed (or 'hosted') by organisations which bid for the contract. So the Birmingham PPIF was managed/facilitated/hosted by Black Country Housing (6:confused: - yup I have no idea - just take my word for it).

Birmingham City Council has been given half a million pounds (yes £500,000) for its LINk. But - surprise, surprise - it has not managed to sort out an organisation to run/manage/facilitate/host the LINk. Apparently there are over 20 organisations bidding for the privilege (not surprising with half a millions squid at stake). So no Birmingham LINk will exist until 1st October. In the interim it seems likely that the PPIF as currently hosted (by Black Country Housing) will be asked to sort of fill in. Yup a shambles.

Now what is absolutely critical from our point of view is that when Birmingham City Council do eventually award the contract to an organisation to host the LINk, and that organisation starts to form the LINk there is a strong and organised voice for mental health service users and mental health issues. If this does not happen then mental health will, as all too often, be pushed to one side. How to ensure this happens I am not quite sure about! But it is something we need to keep a close eye on and campaign about over the next 6 months.

I am sorry if this has been a complicated and rather rambling post but in terms of current activist issues this seems to me - in local terms - to be the most important one.

Nick.
 
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baba yaga

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birmingham
LINks

Thanks Nick for your admirable account of the PPIF/LINks story. I thought it was about as clear as it could get, given the murky world in which these things operate.

Actually, it's even more politcal than the description you gave.

Does anyone remember Community Health Councils? These were the patient representative organisations for many years before PPIFs.

At the end of the Nineties, Birmingham CHC waged a campaign against the Goverment - I seem to remember it was about the Government backing Private Finance Initiatives, which enable private companies to build hospitals which they then lease back to the NHS for 35 years and make a pot of money from the taxpayer. The rights and wrongs of this system would have to be discussed elsewhere, but the Government did not take kindly to CHCs taking it to judicial review over it. The unofficial version of what happened next is that the CHCs were then abolished because they were too powerful for the Government's liking. But there was still a need to be able to point to some sort of patient representation - hence PPIFs.

I leave it to someone else to give us the troubled history of the PPIFs and why those were scrapped. Like Nick, I hope that we, the mental health service users, can make use of the new LINks system to get our issues aired properly.

b y
 
nickh

nickh

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Thanks again for this post b y :).

As you say the problem is trying to ensure that mental health issues and service users are represented in the LINks. I have written to the Council about this (via my Councillor) and am waiting for a response - but that is just one letter which they can easily ignore. Unfortunately as far as I know there is no body/organisation which is putting pressure on and I am not sure which would be the appropriate one anyway.

But it would be great if people could get in touch with their Councillors (and now is a good time with elections up-coming) and ask them to do something about this - it is probable that most of them will never even have heard of LINks but some at least will be willing to help.

Nick.
 
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