Published: 01/04/2004, Volume II4, No. 5899 Page 24 25

The new system for public scrutiny of the NHS, established by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, is already struggling for life.

After only one year in existence, CPPIH (in partnership with the government) has managed to bring statutory patient involvement in the English NHS to its knees.

The new patients' forums established by CPPIH have virtually no resources, facilities or infrastructure and it is reported that many have only three or four members who attend meetings. They have little capacity to scrutinise the NHS.

CPPIH has spent about£27m in its first year. It gave assurances that new patients' forums with at least seven members would be established by 1 December 2003, the date on which the statutory NHS watchdogs - community health councils - were abolished.

Instead they have set up a network of smart new offices, leaving pitifully few resources for the patients' forums - the front line which should have been adequately resourced to carry out the major task of monitoring health services for patients.

As members of the new London Ambulance Service patients' forum, we have access only to a meagre few hours of administrative support each month.We have no office, no photocopier and no computer and virtually no support or resources to develop the new patients' involvement system, or carry out the monitoring of health services.

The so-called 'knowledge management system'which CPPIH promised us is still not available to forum members.

Malcolm Alexander Chair London Ambulance Service patients' forum