Letters

Published: 12/08/2004, Volume II4, No. 5918 Page 18

Your portrayal of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (news, pages 8-9; comment, page 15, 29 July) is unjust and inaccurate, uses opinions of a few people as facts, and when examined closely actually criticises us only for being a 'start-up' organisation.

The financial year costs referred to in your article were for 200304. The CPPIH was established in January 2003, with no shadow period and, at the time, no staff.

In January 2003 ministers asked us to have forums up and running by the end of March 2004. They then told us in May 2003 that they wanted all forums to be up and running by 1 December 2003 - four months earlier.

Despite the difficulties, we achieved this, so that all 572 forums had the statutory minimum number of members.

At the same time we had to set up a structure to provide a national, regional and local support network for forums.

So where did our budget of£33m actually go?

lThe Department of Health retained£8m to support community health councils until they were disbanded in December 2003.

lThe DoH also retained£3.2m to manage the independent complaints advocacy service.

lWe used£12m to enable the 68 forum support organisations to be set up, recruit 400-plus support staff, and provide support to forums from December to March.

l£2m was used to recruit the 4,000 forum members in just 16 weeks.

l We used around£8m to establish and staff nine regional offices and a national office to support patient and public involvement and forums.

We have just finished a review of forum support organisation (FSO) performance with forums.

Some 85 per cent say they are satisfied or more than satisfied with the performance of their FSOs - a creditable result for a nearly new system after its first six months of operation.

We have agreed an action plan with forums to improve the performance of all FSOs.

As for the first full financial year that forums will be running (2004-05), we plan to spend over 80 per cent of our resources directly on forum support.We are on target to do this.We plan to spend:

l£20m directly on forums and PPI activity;

l£6m on the nine regional centres which provide a range of support and advice to forums;

l£7m on providing central support. This includes the provision of IT for forums, and the funding and operation of the knowledge management system.

We held back our planned staffing by 25 per cent so that we can direct even more money to forums. This has seen us establish an extra development fund of£800,000, which forums can use for special additional projects.

Laura McMurtrie Chief executive CPPIH Editor's note Junior health minister Lord Warner criticised CPPIH for spending£23m of its£33m budget on operating costs.