Around one-third of the patients advocacy groups expected to become Local HealthWatch scrutiny teams need to up their game before taking on their new roles as part of the government’s health reforms, according to a health minister.

The Department of Health today launched a transition plan to help so-called Local Involvement Networks (LINks) and their host councils to prepare for their expanded role under health secretary Andrew Lansley’s reforms.

From April 2012 individuals and community groups who populate the volunteer-led LINks will become Local HealthWatch organisations, with a seat on policy-setting Health and Wellbeing Boards and a remit to provide support people with complaints about the NHS.

Part of the guidance suggests that councils and LINks may want to assess “their current level of effectiveness” and plan for the transition to a wider role.

Health minister Lord Howe said that although the DH was currently seeing applications from councils and LINks keen to become pathfinders, others had time to assess what their transition needs would be and that stronger LINks had a peer support role.

“My impression is that we have got about two-thirds of the LINks who are working pretty well and one-third who have some way to go,” he said.

“The strong ones need to engage with the less strong ones over the months ahead.”

Lord Howe said he was aware that the sector had concerns over the extent to which current LINks funding would be extended to cover the Local HealthWatch role.

However, he said it was anticipated that HealthWatch would have available funding of £53.9m for 2012-13, plus £3.2m for start-up costs, while from 2013-14, the combined funding available for HealthWatch and NHS complaints advocacy services would rise to £66.1m.