Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 19

Essex public advice and liaison service network: Alison Kelly, chair, patient and public involvement/PALS manager, Southend Hospital trust; Choe Parr, PPI/ PALS manager, Southend PCT; Debbie Crisp, acting joint head of corporate affairs (PPI and PALS), Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals trust

Essex PALS network members have profound concerns about the outcomes of the job-matching and evaluation process being experienced by PALS officers and their managers.

The Department of Health's original guidance says: 'Lead PALS staff should have direct access to the [organisation's] chief executive and have sufficient status and influence within the organisation to negotiate with clinicians and managers as part of responding to the concerns raised by patients, carers and families.' But there seems to be no national profile for this unique responsibility, and staff are being matched against clerical, secretarial or, in the case of managers, with other service delivery managers.

There is a huge feeling of disappointment and anxiety among network members nationally that the skills for which they were employed have now been devalued.

It is also clear that the implementation of Agenda for Change process has been taken forward in very different ways by individual trusts, and this has not assisted PALS staff in being confident that an equable and fair assessment or job-matching process will be implemented nationally.