PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT Body to encourage community engagement

Published: 07/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5949 Page 8

A so-called 'dating agency' to allow the NHS to share best practice on patient and public involvement will be launched by the end of the year, HSJ has learned.

Currently dubbed the Centre for National Excellence in Patient and Public Involvement, the new body will act as a 'hub' for trusts and patient forums to swap good ideas on community engagement.

Bids to run the new body will be sought in the autumn to allow it to be established ahead of the dissolution of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health in 2006.

But only experienced professionals with experience of public involvement need apply to what national director for patients and the public Harry Cayton has called a 'dating agency'.

'I want it to be a contracted service because I am determined people running it can demonstrate they're experienced in patient and public involvement, ' he told HSJ.

He added that the 'crucial difference' between the outgoing CPPIH and the new centre will be that it will provide support to the entire NHS. 'If one trust wants to know how to reach out to its Bangladeshi community, then it will be able to go to the centre to get case studies on similar work at other trusts and get advice from experts, ' he said.

The new centre will be hosted and its contract managed by the new NHS Institute for Learning, Skills and Innovation, which is scheduled to be up and running at Warwick University by July.

As revealed by HSJ last month (news, page 10, 17 March), NILSI will act as a facilitator of learning and will take on the Modernisation Agency's best practice and innovation sharing role.

The government will invest£100m in special health authority NILSI over the next financial year, including£20m for 'transitional costs', which could include redundancies. It will also invest£6m in the healthcare technology body the National Innovation Centre.

'The new institute will be a much leaner organisation focused on innovation and change - not a provider of large-scale training programmes, ' said junior health minister Lord Warner. 'Others are already doing the training or are well placed to do so.' Former NHSU director Bob Fryer, now national director for widening participation in learning at the Department of Health, will work with NILSI 'to drive forward the work started by the NHSU in relation to widening participation'.