Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mental Health - The Scrutinyweiler Bites The GateWay Family Services

"Tover the Rover" - the Scrutiny-weiler aka, Bull-Tover - has been leaving more teethmarks about in Birmingham UK local health services again. or at least their cross organisational poodle hybrids, Gateway Family Services, (GFS)

GFS whilst being contracted by the NHS for supplying some of its services are actually claiming "independence" so they can now act too as Birmingham City Council's appointed "support Host" for the Govt's new Local Involvement Networks (LINks) that are taking over from the now disbanded (March 2008) and previously more independent Patient and Public Involvement Forums . (see USERWATCH previous report)

LINks are supposed to be able to scrutinise NHS services supplied to the public in a context of independence and genuine confidence in that independence .

In SABA SALMAN's Guardian report today Paul Tovey Ex PPI Deputy Chair of the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health PPI spells out some of the position and Saba Salman explores matters .

"Conflict of interest' dogs scrutiny role"

The Guardian,
  • Wednesday September 17 2008
  • Article history
  • It is a case of joined-up working that is, some say, perhaps a little too joined up. Birmingham council has hired, controversially, a social enterprise that provides health services to the community, and was spawned by a primary care trust (PCT), to manage one of England's largest independent NHS scrutiny organisations.

    The council won £1.66m over three years from the government to launch its Local Involvement Network (Link) - independent collections of individuals and groups that help shape and scrutinise local health and social care services. Birmingham, granted the largest amount awarded to any Link nationally, has appointed Gateway Family Services (GFS) to manage its network.

    GFS, spun off from the NHS in 2006 following a PCT restructure, provides training and employment opportunities in community health with the aim of reducing inequalities. It runs a pregnancy outreach project and a community family worker programme to encourage local people to take up jobs in health, social care and children's services.

    While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing, some question how a provider of NHS services can also have an independent scrutiny role.

    Paul Brian Tovey, a former deputy chair of Birmingham and Solihull mental health patient and public involvement forum, has written to the council to complain about "an undeniable conflict of interest" in GFS providing both NHS locally-contracted services and supporting scrutiny of local services.

    A council spokesman says: "GFS was appointed through a rigorous, open procurement process, which included representatives from the voluntary sector - and Gateway's selection shows we are happy with the application. The Birmingham Link is still in its formative stages and its working form will take shape through discussions with stakeholders in the coming weeks and months."

    South Birmingham PCT adds that it is happy with the arrangement.

    In a separate development, five social enterprise providers of out-of-hours healthcare have formed the largest consortium of its kind, thanks to a £550,000 investment by the Futurebuilders fund. Devon Doctors, Seldoc, in south London, Urgent Care 24, north Merseyside, Herts Urgent Care Ltd and South East Health, in Kent, have teamed up as Urgent Health UK. The investment means consortium members can tender for contracts outside their geographical areas. "

    See Also this story below : Earlier UserWatch Draft

    Putting Accountability To The Stake ?

    UserWatch Reports

    In Birmingham as in other parts of the country a combination of the NHS at "a wrist length" and Local Authority (LA) are stitching up the new Local Involvement Networks (The statutory inheritors of PPI - Patient & Public Involvement Forums) to be suitably spied upon by the LINks Support Host itself. The LA's have the power to appoint the Host and we'll leave it to an email (below) leaked to us by concerned members of the public to demonstrate the fuller story.

    UserWatch thinks its fair comment to state that a LINks Support Host is inside a conflict of interest when it is also a provider of NHS services , several in the case of Gateway Family Services - the LInks Host for Birmingham.

    The Email below we understand was sent to Stephen Hughes, head of the corporate team on Birmingham City Council as well as Dr Lynne Jones M.P. The Guardian as far we know have also been alerted as well as others in the media such as the BBC . Does it matter ? We think accountability does and has been eroded for years by New Labour and the new forms it has encouraged of cross organisational hybrids of State and bureaucratic career interests and this is not conducive to public confidence and proper scrutiny ..

    Let let the email below speak for the concerns of many :

    Above : Stephen Hughes CEO of Birmingham City Council Corporate Team

    FORMAL COMPLAINT 13th Sept 2008

    Stephen Hughes Chief Executive Birmingham City Council

    Dear Mr Hughes

    I have concerns that Gateway Family Services a Community Interest Company (CIC) which has been chosen to Host the Birmingham Local Involvement Network (LINk) to monitor NHS and Social Care Services is not independent enough of the NHS to be regarded as in fact "an independent Host".

    Therefore I believe it should not be the Host support organisation for the Birmingham LINk .

    This is a difficult matter now that BCC have chosen GFS as LINk Host, yet it is clear to me that GFS not only has emerged from South Bham NHS Primary Care Trust PCT (whose Board actually set it up) but also the PCT did so with an avowed intention of GFS having a very close working relationship with the local NHS and a continuing professional partnership with the SBPCT .

    GFS has several contracts with the SBPCT and other parts of the local NHS . I fail to see how it can be both in the role of provider of NHS locally contracted services and support of scrutiny of local NHS services without there being an undeniable conflict of interest.

    The Manager of the LINK whom I have met, and the CEO Vickie Fitzgerald of GFS have implied at a meeting there could seperation, but I cannot see how this is possible. The LINk must be confident that its work at some junctures would not be potentially compromised by pre-existing line-management arrangements at GFS and report-back functions from its manager to its CEO .

    The cross-organisationality here between NHS, ex NHS staff who have morphed into the staff base at GFS, together with current local NHS contractual arrangements, is so close that it does not create enough boundarised organisational seperation to justify the terms "Independent LINk Host"

    I feel BCC should remedy matters and choose another truly independent Host for the Birmingham LINk. How will you resolve these matters now ?


    Paul Brian Tovey .

    Independent Mental Health Monitor

    More Information :

    See Unisons Guide To LINKS

    NHS Centre For Involvement

    Gateway Family Services

    LINk Facilitators
    Birmingham, W Midlands
    Date submitted 2 September 2008
    Closing Date 15 September 2008
    £22- £25k per year
    Full Time
    apply now - go!
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    Help us help everyone enjoy equal access to learning, employment and healthcare

    Gateway Family Services CIC is the leading provider of training and employment to the health and social care sector. Our mission is to reduce inequalities in learning, employment and health to release everyone's potential- and you will have a vital role to play. Gateway family Services CIC has been appointed as the host organisation to set up and co-ordinate the Birmingham Local Involvement Network (LINk). The LINk will give individuals, local communities and voluntary organisations a real voice in shaping and overseeing health and social care services.

    LINk Facilitators x3
    £22- £25k

    In one of these very important roles, you will facilitate and support the Birmingham LINk to improve Health and Social Care across the city. To this end, you will shape the delivery of the Birmingham LINk providing the skills to support members to work effectively in partnership with a range of statutory and community organisations. Facilitators will need to research current health and social care issues and be results focused.
    Ref: GW70

    Please email for an application pack, quoting the appropriate reference, or telephone 0121 772 8525.
    Closing date: 11th September 2008.

    Gateway Family services CIC is an Equal Opportunities Employer

    More Details:
    Gateway Family Services CIC
    Gateway Family Services CIC
    0121 772 8525

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