Local involvement networks will struggle to recruit members, patient and public involvement forums have warned.

United Bristol Healthcare trust PPI forum chair Penny Robinson, Barry Silverman of Southwark patients' forum for primary care and Jennifer Beesley, former chair of Great Yarmouth PPI forum, raised their concerns during a Commons health select committee hearing on PPI.

Ms Robinson said: 'Nobody knows what PPI forums are after three years; how are they going to know what LINks are? We don't know what's going to happen to us. Every week someone resigns, it's very dispiriting. We look forward to the future and we don't know what form the LINks will take.'

Mr Silverman added: 'There is a job to do but we never have the financial reserves to make people understand what we are there for, which would lead to recruitment.'

There was enthusiasm for the inclusion of social services within LINks but doubt over whether other organisations could be persuaded to be represented when recruitment is such a problem.

'One of the few things we welcome with the LINks is the inclusion of social services. We had an issue with delayed discharge due to social services being unable to find a place for the patient as they were under-staffed; we hit a brick wall,' said Ms Robinson.

NHS Alliance PPI lead Dr Brian Fisher said managers often felt threatened by patient and public involvement: 'It has become clear that clinicians are hearing what local people are saying but there is a real deficit in response. It's quite scary being a manager or clinician and listening to what people are saying. it challenges one's power.'

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, which was put before Parliament in December, sets out plans for LINks, which would be local authority based and roughly match the boundaries of the 152 primary care trusts in England.

In November the health select committee announced its inquiry into patient and public involvement in the NHS. The final evidence session will take place on 1 March.