I was saddened on reading your article 'PCTs criticised for lacking local service knowledge', (News, p13, 26 April) as it makes no mention at all of PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Services).

I was saddened on reading your article 'PCTs criticised for lacking local service knowledge', (News, p13, 26 April) as it makes no mention at all of PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Services).

As someone who has been working in a PCT PALS since 2002, I am shocked that all Picker's research (focus groups with patients, surveys of GPs etc) apparently turned up that no-one had ever heard of PALS in their local area..

Your article says: 'The institute has called for a one-stop shop in each PCT, with trained staff to help people navigate the information'.and 'timely, personalised help to navigate the routes to relevant information.'.These are precisely what PALS provide!. And whilst it is true that most PALS have struggled, with minimal funding, to increase awareness of their service among both patients and health professionals, they have clearly had some successes on that front as colleagues in local, regional and national networks report ever-increasing numbers of enquiries and cases.

Unfortunately, the DoHs regrettable decision last year to pull the plug on their funding of the PALS National Network means that there are no reliable statistics on the aggregate number of cases handled nationally.

The irony is that the current PCT restructuring combined with financial problems are jeopardising the future of many PALS, just when the need for them has never been greater, as Picker's research shows.. Alarming reports are emerging of PALS being merged (or submerged) into complaints departments, devolved to service managers, or GP practices and so on.

Perhaps PALS managers can at least use Picker's findings to reawaken the interest and support from their Boards which is desperately needed if PALS are to survive and thrive (and dare one hope, even expand into new areas) in the current environment.

Lesley Mallinder, PALS and public involvement co-ordinator, Buckinghamshire PCT


Such a service already exists and would mean 'doubling up on current resources'

I found this article interesting reading and was surprised to see that the research was.DoH funded.

The call for a joint patient support service across local services.would appear to be doubling up on current resources.. All NHS trusts have a.Patient Advice and Liaison Services.. The role of PALS is to provide personalised help to patients, carers, users and public in how to navigate the NHS, plus identify service improvements and take these forward.within their trusts.. PALS across the NHS have variable levels of funding.which may have an impact on the individual service ability to raise awareness.

Many PCTs are working towards integrating services across health and social care and therefore it is inevitable that PALS works across all areas, not just health and social care, but also forming networks to work seamlessly between services on behalf of patients, carers and users.

It is disappointing that the DoH seems to have overlooked this important, valued service with a call to fund another.patient support service, especially at this time of financial pressures.

Nicola Lucas, PALS manager, Southwark PCT