A national organisation formed by members of local involvement networks has accused the Department of Health of failing to support the groups, which were established just a year ago.

A network was established in each local authority area to organise public involvement in health and social care, following the abolition of public and patient involvement forums from April last year.

As the DH did not set up a national body for the networks, some of them independently established the National Association of LINks Members.

The group has around 700 individual members and has begun signing up the networks as members.

Association chair Malcolm Alexander complained the DH had declined to recognise or fund its work.

He said he was disappointed with “the government’s decision not to support the launch of the newborn health and social care watchdogs”, he said.

“The way the department communicates with us is very difficult. They won’t consult us without us putting a lot of pressure on them.”

A DH spokesman said it “made £84m available over three years to support the establishment and running” of the networks and that legislation allows them to collaborate with each other.

“It is not something that DH should impose centrally,” he said.