As an NHS employee, I have been eagerly awaiting the launch of the NHS plan. Over the last year I have, with colleagues, publicly welcomed the need for change, and discussed at length our new role within a revamped system.
When the consultation happened earlier this year, I filled in the leaflet, one as a patient, and one as a staff member (it said prime minister Tony Blair would respond to me, but I haven't received anything).
So when the plan was launched I scrutinised at length chapter 10 on 'Changes for patients'. I was pleased at the emphasis on putting patients first, something we had long been pushing for. I got quite excited at the thought of being able to see my GP within 48 hours (at present the earliest appointment is usually two weeks). I noted several good ideas about patient involvement.
But when I looked carefully all I could see was a number of separate initiatives: a patient advocate and liaison service (based in hospitals); a patients' forum for each hospital or primary care trust; and local government scrutiny of local NHS services, including consultation on changes. I searched in vain for a proposal for some kind of overall body to pull these different patient empowerment initiatives together, but could find none. Then in the conclusion I found a passing reference to the abolition of community health councils.
As a CHC chief officer, I thought of a typical day: helping the public with queries over health issues or local services; advising patients who have not had a good experience in the NHS through the complaints procedure; together with CHC voluntary members, working with the local trust, primary care groups and health authority; working with local voluntary and community groups. Working regionally and nationally with other CHCs. Being effective because we are involved in all aspects of local health services as well as with the community we serve.
I couldn't see anything in the plan which will take on that vital role.
Shouldn't the public be told?
Linda Pepper Chief officer Trafford community health council