Friday, April 23, 2010

The Problems With The Birmingham LINk What Has It Done For Mental Health ?


Below is copied the minutes from the Birmingham City Council UK Health Overview Scrutiny Committee of 17th March 2010 distributed only in the last few days . As part of their tasks they had to examine whether the local Birmingham Local Involvement (Health and Social Care) Network LINK was of good value. The minutes really do show what a sorry state the Birmingham Local Involvement Network (LINk) is in . The Bham Post has previously carried a critical story about them too.

From the now published minutes Councillor Anne Underwood on March 17th made a good point about whether the Bham LINk had built on the work that the previous Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums had created . Those forums were not perfect by any means but they did respond to situations and health policy roll outs as they happened .

The Bham LINk seems to have concentrated not on good previous PPI practices and evolving them forwards usefully but on constructing a very centralised body without that much of a base . That appears to have been costly in time and human resources and it seems to have diluted its capacity to do work on its all important working groups . They should have been the priority from the beginning we think .

David Spilsbury's observation too within the minutes below is damning because after over 18 months of meetings and organisation the Bham LINk has hardly carried out any useful health monitoring work that is on any records UserWatch could examine . (see Bham LINk records Here)

From the OSC minutes Nick Hay the Chairman of the Bham LINk :

"advised that the LINk was determining who could speak officially on its behalf"

Well that's odd for a Chairman to advise and seems underpinned by an uncertainty of approach that indicates it may not be him (!?) How so ?

Users who have contacted UserWatch about the mental health aspect of the LINK asked what has it done for mental health in Birmingham . Userwatch is not sure at all - there's been no information coming out of the Bham LINk that shows very much . What we are aware of is some Users who joined in the local MIND-promoted User Group do not like the LINk.

There is no record either we could find of the Birmingham LINk having referred the Birmingham mental health Trust's Main House Borderline PD Service closure to the Health OSC formally which surely it should done .

The lack of a Bham East and North Primary Care Trust LINk Health Group mentioned in the minutes below is very concerning too but in reality as soon as the Patient and Public Involvement PPI Forums were disbanded in March 2008 then a very good Bham East & North PCT PPI Forum diminished that had been looking after the interests of the public .

The Bham LINk it appears failed to capitalise on previous PPI practice . Why ? We think it appears to have run with a degree of ignorance and lack of realised ability to have learned from what went before. From what we can also see in the Host that was chosen is it appears they had no experience of PPI monitoring and that Birmingham City Council chose them and therefore it too showed very poor judgment .

From the Overview Scrutiny Minutes of 17th March 2010

"BIRMINGHAM LINk UPDATE The following report from the Birmingham LINk Project Manager was submitted:- (See document No. 4)

Maria Bailey, LINk Project Manager, gave a brief introduction to the report, advising Members that Gateway had improved the LINk membership by 1,300 people over the previous 12 months, including individuals and groups.

The 3-year funding for the LINk would come to an end in March 2011 and there had been no indication from the Department of Health regarding future funding.

Nick Hay, Chairman of the Birmingham LINk, gave a short presentation to Members and advised that the LINk was determining who could speak officially on its behalf. He acknowledged the importance of the LINk working with the Committee and playing a complementary role and advised that the LINk had made constructive contact with the Strategic Director of Adults and Communities.

Furthermore, he drew attention to the importance of health, social and welfare links with City Council Departments and the Third Sector.

Bill Poacher, Gateway Family Services CIC, advised that the transfer of responsibility from Gateway to the LINk was moving forward and that it would be important to increase the visibility of the LINk and people’s awareness of it.

Nick advised three immediate priorities for LINk:

developing engagement strategies; agreeing work priorities for the next 12 months; and developing the relationships outlined.

In relation to the earlier discussion on Personality Disorder Services (Minute No. 222), Nick Hay advised that the LINk’s working relationship with BSMHFT had been first-rate and that BSMHFT was the only Trust to have signed an agreement with the LINk on joint working.

Councillor Anne Underwood expressed concern that the membership of the LINk remained low and she expressed doubts regarding what was being achieved. She questioned how the LINk would avoid ‘re-inventing the wheel’ and whether it was building on the work undertaken by patient forums who previously had the same responsibilities.

Bill Poacher advised that the membership included groups and covered a wide range of people and that the LINk had also a range of contributors to activities who had not signed up as members. He reminded Members that the LINk had been in operation for only 18 months.

Maria Bailey advised that Warwick Research Consortium had suggested structural and organisational arrangements had not engaged interest to date, but that the advances by the LINk in looking outwards and setting priorities would raise greater awareness and interest.

In response to questions from the Chairman she advised that there might be no funding to the LINk after March 2011 and that the situation was not clear.

Nick Hay pointed out that there was a requirement for local authorities to establish LINks. In response to questions from Councillor Ansar Ali Khan, Nick Hay confirmed that there was no functioning sub-group in the Heart of Birmingham area nor in the Birmingham East and North area because there had been insufficient interest to date in Birmingham East and North and the Heart of Birmingham sub-group was in the process of being established.

Bill Poacher confirmed that community language leaflets were being used and advised Members that participatory appraisal approaches were being used in work with local black and minority ethnic groups. He advised Councillor Zaker Choudhry that the 500 ‘active’ members were active in terms of consultation and engagement and that a significant number were from black and minority ethnic communities. He noted Councillor Zaker Choudhry’s concern that the expenditure to date had attracted only a small membership, but advised that the membership consisted of a representative core group that formed an important base.

He confirmed to the Chairman that there was a wide age range of people involved in the LINk and that an Older Person’s Action Group had been established to engage with older people. Members noted that the Women’s and Maternity Group for the LINk had found it difficult to engage with relevant groups of local people, but that 150 people had attended a large event on Tuesday 9 March 2010.

At the invitation of the Chairman, Gerry Moynihan, Bordesley Green Neighbourhood Forum, addressed the meeting and drew attention to the Birmingham LINk’s role in relation to the delivery plan for the Local Area Agreement. He noted that £650,000 of funding had been set aside to meet indicator NI4 and questioned what the LINk was doing to meet that indicator.

Maria Bailey advised that an area based grant had been provided to fulfil the indicator and that everything undertaken by the LINk contributed to meeting that target.

In all, there were 22 to 30 different organisations involved with the LINk. She noted Mr Moynihan’s concern that there was low awareness of the LINk, but advised that, while people may not identify with the LINk, they may have participated in activities involving the LINk.

In response to questions from Councillor Margaret Byrne, Nick Hay advised that the LINk had been established by Gateway Family Services CIC and that it was funded jointly by the City Council and the NHS. He noted Councillor Margaret Byrne’s concern that a handyman service funded in Hodge Hill, which had helped with people’s physical and mental health, had been lost.

The Chairman invited a local resident, David Spilsbury, to address the meeting and he advised that he had been the Chairman of the South Birmingham Community Health Council until it had been disbanded. He had contacted the LINk and local groups, but had been concerned that they were not fulfilling a health function, that Gateway was making money from the LINk and that little progress had been made in 2 years.

He was concerned that that situation had arisen mainly because the LINk had been organised by a host organisation rather than by its members. Nick Hay advised that establishing the organisational arrangements had been an important function and that there was a legal requirement to have a host organisation.

Bill Poacher advised that the LINk had begun to change and did involve diverse groups now.

The Chairman proposed, Members agreed, and it was - RESOLVED:- That the report be noted and a further report from the LINk be requested for September 2010."

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