A quarter of local involvement networks do not attend primary care trust board meetings.

A survey of 135 PCT chief executives, carried out by the National Association of LINks Members, found 73 per cent of LINks attended board meetings. Only 44 per cent of networks had full speaking rights throughout board meetings, while the remainder were only allowed to speak at times set aside for questions for members of the public.

Most PCTs - 84 per cent - said arrangements for inclusion of LINks in board meetings were unchanged since the abolition of community health councils and patients’ forums. The findings raise questions about the effectiveness of LINks, which were introduced in 2008.

NALM chair Malcolm Alexander said: “A significant number of PCTs aren’t allowing LINks access to board meetings - that’s very significant.”

The association is calling for every PCT to allow a LINk representative to sit with board members and participate during meetings. It also wants PCTs to publish details of how they are working with LINks.

But PCT Network director David Stout said: “Engaging with the local community goes beyond board meetings.”

He added: “This whole area has suffered from constant re-organisation in recent years.”