Thursday, March 31, 2011

Birmingham LINK Goes Into Meltdown


The UK Birmingham Local Involvement Network (LINK) of Health and Social Care monitors appears now to be going into China Syndrome . Its Core Group has partly become unstable perhaps ? Oh yes, its finally been told it is NOT SAFE and it has to be made safe . This email below attributed to Gateway Family Services (The LINk Host) sent on to us is doing the rounds of health activists and Users in Birmingham and further afield. It clearly needs to be seen by all . We understand though the "Action Groups" associated with the Birmingham LINK are still to work .

"Dear [Chairs of Core Group & Finance and Admin] (names redacted)

We are writing to inform you that we have received a high level of complaints within the last month, both from LINk Core Group members, Link members and Councillors which pertain to the lack of a governance framework.

We have highlighted this as a risk to BCC, as we believe it renders the LINk vulnerable in terms of legal, financial and reputational risk – in these terms we regard it as unsafe. I would like to point out that minimum standards of policy, health and safety, safeguarding and equality legislation are being met.

This volume of complaints has allowed us to identify a trend which relates to the decision making and accountability of the Birmingham LINk

The Issues and associated risks

The main areas which represent significant risk are as follows:

Absence of, fit for purpose, governance framework – namely

1. Lack of comprehensive and agreed Standard Operating Procedures

2. Unsuitable and unenforceable complaints process

The risk associated with the above issues are:

1. Decisions being made without sufficient governing documents

2. New and existing members unable to be provided with handbook – as required in the audit – due to insufficient governing documents

3. Members therefore able to make decisions and represent the LINk without clearly defined responsibility, accountability and boundary of role

4. Financial decisions being made without a suitable framework of accountability

5. Codes of conduct, procedures and current protocols are unenforceable due to inadequate complaints

Appropriate Solution

We propose to solve the above issues and associated risk by:

1. Suspending meetings*of the two key decision making groups ie: Core Group and Administration and Finance Group, until such time that agreed Standard Operating Procedures and a robust Complaints Procedure has been approved.

2. To form a sub-group tasked with the actions in point 1.

3. To gain approval of required governance framework through single issue meeting with a quorate membership of the Core Group

*although meetings would be suspended, information would still be disseminated to the relevant group members.

Responsible owners for all remedial actions required

Host organisation

Sub-group facilitated by the Host organisation

LINk Core Group (quorate amount)

Timescales for remedial action

Suspension of meetings of two key decision making groups - with immediate effect

Formation of sub-group - 15th April 2011

Final draft document agreed 13th May 2011

Website consultation period complete 30th June 2011

The remaining elements of the contract, including the Action Groups plans and objectives, together with the main priorities for the LINk will continue to be delivered.

During the period of the suspension of the groups, we advise not holding the Vice-Chair election and halting the co-option process to enable the governance documents to be drafted and approved.

Regards [Host of The Birmingham LINk]

LINk Logo

Birmingham LINk

c/o Gateway Family Services CIC, Radclyffe House, 66-68 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 8PF

Tel: 0800 652 5278, Email:

Monday, March 28, 2011

More Zero State - Beyond The Watertowers NHS Confederation Report


By a UserWatch Correspondent

Apart from being anti-patient-choice in mental health - but certainly avidly-for Mental Health User Involvement (which created over 13 years of Labour) more bureaucracy and subtle dominion in the NHS, the self interested as ever NHS Confederation trots out its new brown going part pinky blue trottery on the Gov't take .. Piggies in middle class eh ?

Meanwhile we all have seen the "heroic" 250,000 people protesting about cuts as though these things were never in the Labour lexicon.... Far from it, 13 years of Labour in mental health showed a mirror of the economy - all bureaucracy and no productive reality . Apart from theorising here and there about "social inclusion" . The cuts and attacks on welfare were on their way - we need weeding out ... UserWatch is full of nettles though for all parties and even God ..

The balance of trade to get back to sanity though , might have been called the imbalanced national mental health mindedness since finally someone sees some sense and the Gov't are quoted in the NHS Confeds "Budget Briefing" :

"Alongside the Budget the Government published its Plan for Growth, which outlines how the government plans to make the UK :“a world-leader in manufacturing, life sciences, creative industries, green energy and non-financial business services”.

Frankly UserWatch supports realistic think tankery rather than credit laden thankyou very much bankery that has kept everyone inside expensive illusions. This Government faces the obvious : "produce or slowly die off you feckers " ...

In the economic squeeze though mental health patients and their ideas of growth are pretty well zeroed out . The time of slaying off the welfare weak has come - a bit of cannibalism first happens with a few statues pulled down of useless ideas on top of people and then its down to putting the expanded middle classes from priestly bureaucratic churches now being demolished back to work in the manufacturing sectors (like Germany has done successfully) all because you have to earn your way rather than invent your pay .

The NHS Confed Budget Briefing also includes :

"The Plan for Growth also stated that the Government will shortly publish "Shaping Competitive Markets", guidance to support departments in better decision making by setting out measures that procurers should take to shape and open up markets, and highlighting how procurement decisions can have undesirable consequences on markets."
Now that should be interesting since it is time for mental health users to look into the mouth of the shark world and realise they were already there inside the NHS if they disagreed with it so what's different about the new potential for "markets" ?

Just be aware the mental health charities are lining up to line their pockets now as price undercutting "willing providers" . If you are serious about personal growth in mental health as a User or Carer - look elsewhere because this Charity-way is not the way either and will lead to a duplication of another form of under-stated need - the Under-State , Zero State is close by.

Watch out for yourselves .. Don't go numb and mad . Fight for life . You've got one in the whole of eternity so kick the charity sharks in the teeth before they bite your legs off ..


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Tar Heaven And The Slowed Pace Of Patient Choice In Mental Health


Snowballing Patient Choice In Mental Health Service Hell ?

By the time any Patient Choice happens in mental health using healthcare budgets it will be almost designed out into a form of DOH bureau-clevered-up non existence. Taxes and death are assured - so is no Patient Choice in Mental Health (MH) services in the UK. Social Care budgets for MH are already under attack and eligibility for them is subject to greater testing and more restrictions right across the UK.

Bureaucracy survives and just wants a slow exit from the field. Well it would wouldn't it and maybe there is even partial merit in that argument, after all, anti-market sentiment in mental health is a seriously embedded culture in both NHS and MH Charity providers and therefore a culture of choices has not grown at all. Keep it slowed down ? Trickle down choice. Like gluey tar in a wine glass pyramid and you can drink thickened up gunk in a few years - if you are alive ..... Its black all around . Tar heaven .

It's all been predetermined by Sainsbury Centre For Mental Health (now the "Centre For Mental Health") into designer top down supply side provisioning and de-institutionalised provisioning of despair in the community. You cannot help thinking that the death rate of MH Service Users will get higher over the next few years and this is like an atavistic anti welfare wolf policy surge of a socio-economic Darwinian clear-out-time of the old and weak ....Some of us said a few years ago that the Workhouse times were back - modernised of course . Only there's no house - just chains in wildness spaces called "community"...

You can barely believe, but have to believe, that after years of talk about shifting the balance of power, the only power that was significantly shifted was the power of the MH charities to form themselves into public servants of the Governments and build up empires of double and triple facing duplicities that build the new parasitic 3rd sector corporate classes . Aided by a culture of paid off MH User-involvement....

What the hell is wrong with Patient Choice in mental health ? It was easy to budget for and pilot at the therapy end initially . Piloting was the way but instead CBT was chosen and dominated the budget for anal retentive therapy "training" as opposed to using eclectic mixes of emotionally healing talk and feelings skills that already existed . Keep it head-bound though - do not let those dangerous feelings become owned again .. Keep 'em split off .. Medicalise history and distress and make the new tranquil pill out of controlling thoughts - kinda suits the age .

Its a middle class ethos - anti-social-context . Feck the social contradictions boot em out ... Make 'em busy ... Surviving .... Give 'em more trauma . Keep it subtle though inside gymnastic languages that talk about "care" ...

So what do the health care professionals say about Patient Choice ? Well see it all here. You hardly have to read it really . Cautious and bureaucratic - looking for "evidence" having denied it for years by collusion with anti-patient-choice policies and prime amongst them is the National Development Mental Health Unit - the replacement for NIMHE founded and architected by Sainsbury Centre For Mental Health - who registered its website first and foremost . Whoops ... DOH and SCMH slipped up there ..

What will happen to Patient Choice in mental health ? It will be over-managed and under-resourced and argued over so long as we do not create a culture of choice driving pathways of results. If GP consortia have got any sense they will take the therapy budgets and purchase in new providers competitively but they will probably not have enough money to show proper results over time because the simple truth is it takes time for people to heal in a society of busted up cultures , dysfunctionalising families, and despair .

Never mind there's always Tar heaven .

See also Health Service Journal :

Monday, March 21, 2011

Health & Social Care Bill Too Extreme Too Rushed BMA Says




What we are seeing in Birmingham is very fast "reforms" . Part of the problem is the Govt economic driver and the way it has been shaped like ideological spears . "Transforming the Communities" (a New Labour document of 2009) as a policy goes back in its formations for years with the Sainsbury Centre For Mental Health pushing different forms of de-institutionalization and "social inclusions" but now the added 2011 Coalition incentive to save money and cut services is likely to be a toxic situation .

Welfare reform, GP commissioning and shifting secondary care "SMI's" (serious mental illness Users) over to primary care side supply is going to be lethal for some Users who fall outside of being able to be supported or cared for by family or the dwindling support systems we have .

Coupled with 3rd sector instabilities created by the local authority being over-ambitious on service cuts (no rises in council tax) and eligibility criteria for support being altered (4000 affected in Birmingham alone) - its all not looking good . Over to the BMA letter :

British Medical Association Letter To Andrew Lansley :

"March 17th 2011

Dear Secretary of State

I am writing to inform you of the outcome of the BMA’s Special Representative Meeting (SRM) held on Tuesday to debate and direct the BMA’s approach towards the Health and Social Care Bill, and the subsequent meeting of BMA Council.

On Tuesday, just under 400 members representing the whole range of BMA national, regional and local structures across the UK voted to carry 33 motions covering many different aspects of the Bill. All of the motions reflect grave concern about major elements of the Bill, especially, as drafted, the powers that will be given to Monitor to ensure the promotion of competition. Despite Government reassurances, the vast majority of doctors believe the implementation of these powers will lead to a fragmentation of care and will undermine commissioning consortia’s ability to make decisions based on the best interests of their patients and local populations.

In many ways, motion 35 summed up the feeling of the SRM. A large majority voted that the current plans for reform are too extreme and too rushed and will negatively impact on patient care. By a smaller majority, the SRM called on the Health Secretary to call a halt to the proposed top-down reorganisation of the NHS and to withdraw the Health and Social Care Bill. However, the SRM also recognised that some aspects of the Bill have the potential to improve and safeguard care. In particular, motions were carried supporting the principles of clinician-led commissioning, albeit with concerns about how they are intended to work in practice.

The SRM, by a narrow majority, pulled back from asking us to oppose the Bill in its entirety, but very clearly indicated that doctors expect to see more progress on amending the most worrying aspects of the Bill, calling on the BMA to publicise and oppose the damaging elements of the Bill and to consider what form of action should be taken by the medical profession.

I have had the strongest steer from our representatives and Council that we have to focus our energies on improving the Health and Social Care Bill for the benefit of patients, the profession and the NHS. This comes on top of our recent major survey of members by Ipsos MORI, which clearly showed significant concern about the reforms, especially about increased and enforced competition. This was the case even amongst those doctors generally supportive of the reforms and those involved as Pathfinders.

I have asked our Director of Representational and Political Activities to liaise with your seniorofficials on the full range of motions carried by the BMA SRM. I also hope that you and I can meet soon to discuss how the BMA can work with you to ensure that doctors’ views and concerns are properly reflected in the Government’s proposed reforms.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely
Dr Hamish Meldrum
Chairman of Council, BMA "


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welfare To Darkness Rolls In


Will the suicide rates go higher when the ESA muds swamp in ?

As from March 28th the ATOS doctors will be busy re-assessing

Of course it has been coming for years - "REFORM" - the Incapacity Benefit figures were attacked as too high and those bad ol' shirkers out there were just swinging the lead and refusing to be the working class on dog wages . Of course not only were many disabled but they could not compete with the 1 million Poles and few others and many who lived 15 or twenty to a house thus knocking down the rent for each other in London areas.

The truth is fraud was never that high but overblown with the media 's old/new workless class prejudice. The dreamy newspapers - fanning flames about and other media just bolstered the ridiculous growth of the middle classes on the back of New Labour bureau-land for 13 years - after quite a few years of the Tories kidding everyone you could magically earn enough for the country by making up the GDP gap with "financial services" .... Oh dear ... Not to worry David Freud ex-banker is here and his plans started in the Tony & Gord Labour years . So is it dark and collectively unconscious therapy for everyone and death for quite a few - who will finally not cope ? Britain loves to re-invent its victorian cruelty doesn't it ?

Well a bunch of Mental Health "hacktivists" in London have put a letter out to the Guardian ... You know the Guardian that did so much to seriously criticise the years when the Sainsbury Centre For Mental Health was heroically leading the charge on "Work for all" in mental health and "Inclusion" ..... Oh dear .... Its all inclusion on the plank now in the Coalition sea of cuts and choppy policies ... But over to some MH Users who feel its worth writing to the Guardian and its networks of socially manipulating classes .

"March 2011


Dear Editor,

We believe that the manner in which long term benefit claimants with mental health problems are being reassessed for work will result in suicides. As Work Capability Assessments (WCAs) for existing claimants are being rolled out nationally, the system is already in a state of chaos, particularly in relation to mental health claims. Amidst this chaos, the Mental Health Resistance Network has been formed by people who live with the reality of mental health problems, to demand an immediate end to this cruel and unfair method of assessing fitness for work. WCAs are no more than a smokescreen to conceal drastic cuts to benefits for people in mental distress. We are compelled to speak up as we hear friends talk of suicide as they face the loss of their only realistic source of income.

The previous government allowed the press to prepare the public for this onslaught against the disabled by remaining silent for several years as endless stories about benefit cheats appeared in the tabloids and right wing press. Rumours emerged suggesting that they were behind the press having access to individual benefit cheat stories. The same press now cites the high number of people being found fit for work as proof that we were cheats all along, easing the way for the Coalition to return the UK to pre Welfare State conditions, thus fulfilling a long standing Tory ambition. This will remove a hard won safety net from many ordinary people should they become too ill to work.

We want to set the record straight. The reason the huge, international IT company, Atos Origin, is finding so many people fit for work is that the criteria to qualify for disability benefits has changed to a point where it excludes a huge number of sick and disabled people. Furthermore, the assessments don’t take enough account of existing evidence in support of a claim, especially where a fluctuating condition requires a longer view. This process has nothing to do with benefit fraud: these changes are about reducing the welfare bill in a country that has, over the past thirty years, been dominated by an ethos of ‘self interest and damn the rest’. If only as much effort could be put into assessing the tax liabilities of the rich!

At a time when unemployment has passed 2.5 million and competition for jobs is fierce, we worry that we will be consigned to the poverty of long term dependence on Job Seekers Allowance, working for meagre benefits and constant pressure to prove we are looking for work we will never find or be able to sustain if we do find it.

We are keen to see any initiative that would enable people with mental health problems enter into, and maintain, meaningful employment: subjecting us to defamation, indignity, fear, disengagement from services and poverty is not such an initiative.

Professor Harrington, appointed to carry out annual reviews of the WCA, will focus on how it deals with mental health conditions this year as he acknowledges that this is currently inadequate. So how many claimants with mental health problems will be assessed before it becomes adequate?

The high rates of successful appeals are evidence that Atos is failing, no doubt at huge cost to the country. Frantic efforts are now taking place to reduce the number of appeals, ranging from DWP employees making phone calls to explain to unsuccessful claimants why the decision was right, to decision makers and Atos doctors scouring through live appeals to carry out reassessments, i.e. mini tribunals minus the appellant. Later this year, advice and Legal Aid will be withdrawn from claimants.

The whole process can take the best part of a year for a distressed claimant who is placed on a lower rate of benefit while they wait. No sooner has someone won their appeal than they are recalled for another WCA in a matter of a few months to start the whole process again. The distress for claimants going through this process cannot be overstated and this is happening at a time when mental health services, which provide vital support, are being slashed.

Subjecting vulnerable people to such an ordeal constitutes abuse. Please bring this to an end now.

It's Your Survey Voice Says Joe Health Wish








At last a Health Watch survey for Birmingham ! Following some reports of a lack of public and councilor confidence in the health and social care monitoring Local Involvment Network in Birmingham. Its time to consult you isn't it ?

The Birmingham LINK has high costs for its elections of its Core Group running at £3000 a time and with very low turnout of little more than a maximum of 240 it has to be time to think again - not waste money on a "democratic base" that actually isn't there compared to the 1 million population of Birmingham . Let the Councillors represent Birmingham - let the Health and Social Care Birmingham LINK or Health Watch Monitors liaise with them better ?

Time to concentrate on health monitoring and doing that first and foremost ? What are the options ? Take a look :

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Stability For Who? Did You Get Your Therapy Yet?


IAPT as it is known, in short means "Improvement In Access for Psychological Therapies". For years its been rolling out here and there and yet in the area of what should have been patient choice it avoided that - instead becoming a DWP related prefered model of choice to tighten up the nuts and bolts in an economy without too little export led engineering anyway ... The whole country has not been fit for purpose for years .. Deluded by bureau-jobs and a growth in the "middle classes"

But....has access to therapy improved in Birmingham ? Who knows as yet . Who knows what the Birmingham public really thinks ? Who knows whether psychological therapy in Birmingham is aiding more people in Birmingham to discuss life's distresses and not take pills and be open to possible side effects and delayed connection of what should be social and psychological connections ? Who knows very much ?

We at UserWatch hope someone runs a survey soon that is owned by the public and for the public because a considerable amount of money was shunted through trainees in 2009 - 2010 (£2.6 million) and its time the public experience was tested.

Rumours persist that so far an IAPT contract or set of contracts to serve Birmingham has not been finalised as yet . Meanwhile Patient Choice creeps on and on and perhaps in a few years it will become real . It may be hit by a tsunami of needs though as the welfare tectonic plate state creates crushing misery and slavery like conditions for some to survive in .

GP consortia in Birmingham are quite slow and far behind in their social psychological knowledge and arguably in the need to organise and localise more supply and provide real choices that are not simply 3rd sectorised for under-cutting value .

The BSMHF Trust looks set to try to plug the gap with an attempt to create a 5 year contract but will it succeed ? Will outgoing PCT commissioners favour that ? Will GP consortias in Birmingham be ready to take on IAPT responsibilities ? Where there is a lot of "will's", there's chaos ...

Its worth reading Sue Turner CEO's feb 2011 report and what she has to say . It reveals to a mapping out of GP consortia's in Bham set along PCT boundary type lines ..



Friday, March 11, 2011

Bham PCT Merger Is Ruled As Against Patient Choice


Yep its some GP out on the edges in Birmingham as the NHS empire reshapes.

It seems some slick movements by the South Bham PCT and others in B'ham contravenes the Patient Choice agenda quite seriously according to the Co-operation and Competition Panel take a look below . Mind you in mental health "choice" is highly likely to be stitched up with 3rd Sectorisation and the cheap as chips volunteering-economy ..

What will the difference between slavery in the future and volunteering ? Volunteering is done without chains and whips, but god knows how all these volunteers will be supported when the welfare state and benefits are unlikely to support their needs in an economy of illusions. Yet this development with other parts of health is interesting - who knows maybe in time the new Charity-State in mental health provision will be honest and become businesses. We advise that you stop being suckers though and just stop doing the lottery. Save your money for your locality not the newly re-adjusting middle classes .


Extract below from the Co-operation and Competition Panel


1. The Cooperation and Competition Panel (CCP) has reviewed the proposed merger of the community services provider arms of South Birmingham PCT, Birmingham East and North PCT and Heart of Birmingham PCT. Our advice to the Department of Health is that the merger as currently constituted is not consistent with Principles 9 and 10 of the Principles and Rules for Cooperation and Competition (Principles and Rules).

2. The CCP concluded that the merger between the three PCT provider arms in Birmingham will reduce patient choice and competition and thus give rise to material costs to patients and taxpayers in relation to the provision of: District nursing and Health Justify Fullvisiting services across the three PCTs in Birmingham; and Universal children’s services in Birmingham East and North PCT and South Birmingham PCT.

3. The CCP also concluded that the vertical integration of the acute elective dental services provided by the provider arm of South Birmingham PCT with the community dental services provided by the provider arm of Heart of Birmingham PCT, a provider of community services that holds gate-keeping responsibilities equivalent to those of a GP, is likely to undermine the GP gatekeeper function and hence give rise to costs to patients.

4. Together with this report, the CCP is publishing for consultation with interested stakeholders an invitation to comment on suitable remedies to address the adverse effect on patient and taxpayers identified in this report. Comments on this notice should be provided by 4 March 2011 and we plan to publish our remedies recommendations in March 2011. "


"The Cooperation and Competition Panel has ruled outright against a merger between two trusts for the first time.

Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust had wanted to merge with Suffolk Mental Health Partnership Trust.

The move would also have allowed Suffolk to achieve foundation status as part of the merged organisation.

But the panel said the merger would result in the removal of “close competition” for contracts from three primary care trusts, due to the lack of other credible competitors within the area.

Any benefits accruing from the merger were too small to outweigh the adverse effect from the reduced competition, the panel said."

Birmingham Carers Association Petition Goes To 2166


YES ITS GONE TO 2166 Petitioners !!


The Petition was headed: "Cuts to Care Services"

The front page of the petition stated:

"Thousands of Carers looking after sick or disabled relatives are living in fear that following the devastating reductions to council budgets from Westminster Government, support for families with caring needs will be cut.

If councilors cut care and support services: families with caring needs will be pushed to breaking point and their health and life chances will suffer; older and disabled people will lose their independence and need higher levels of care sooner; carers juggling work and care will be forced to give up work to care full time for loved ones."

What is curently happening in Birmingham UK will be repeated across the country : the money for care is going to be cut for those classified as with "substantial" needs under an assessment process known as Fairer Access to Care Services (FACS) . This will leave only the "critical" banding as those who will receive help . (See FACS at the DOH 2010)

UserWatch says : If you were not classified as "critical" before, you are likely to be if your "substantial" needs do not get met because lack of help for people in the substantial banding of assessed needs is arguably going to make them worse .

The Bham City Council UK claim they will have factored in a £15+ million (coming across from PCT's) to share across the 3rd Sector to compensate partly and allow more support that way . The detail though is that those assessed as "substantial" will only be "signposted" to this new strategy and it is uncertain what the effects will be . Will it be a reviewable process every 3 months ? It ought to be considering some people are heading for care problems with all of this ..

Monday, March 07, 2011

NALM Creates Its Health Watch Visions

While Money The KID is in the Hangscape The Visions Come

But think about this before you read the National Association For Local Involvement Network Members (NALM) statement of vision for the future below :

What is "national" and "local" now really ? Is the internet evolution we have been heading towards where all the old Gov't institutions in-formationally merge and are made sense of at the point of the local computer ? Shared social seas of consciousness ? Who needs as much of the Newspaper-media now as we did 30 years ago ? Do we need "national bodies"? Who needs to lead who in a de-bureaucratised consumer driven health economy? Will Health Watch be local , or kind-of "centralised" in a local way by the Local Authority bureau-barons ... The tendency is always the massing of power even in a democracy because shoaling citizens may need protections from the shark State and the State wants to govern and demand obedience .. Its all going to play out in the next few years of pain where the weak and old will be picked off but who knows maybe the public will wake up in rage or vigour and creativity from the partial sovietisation of public services .

Coming up :
Its the decade of the
Growing wreathe
For the law of the jungle
Is underneath

Over to NALM

National voice for LINks’ members :


Mission Statement for Healthwatch:

“Healthwatch is the consumer champion for health and social care services, giving a voice to local people, community and voluntary groups to influence the way their services are planned, purchased and provided.”

Successful local HealthWatch will be:

Influential: HealthWatch will be - and be seen to be – a key, valued and respected player working in partnership with local providers, commissioners, health and wellbeing boards, public health services and communities, to co-design and scrutinize local services on behalf of local people. Its credibility will be enhanced through the knowledge and experience gained in supporting individuals. HealthWatch will have good and effective links with local communities and with the voluntary sector and will have a duty to engage and involve. It will add value to local efforts to promote active citizenship, public health and community engagement.

Independent and well-resourced: HealthWatch will be – and be seen to be – independent and strong, and will be effectively managed, supported and equipped to reach into the community.

Supportive: Visible, accessible, and responsive, and providing valued support to individuals seeking help to understand and navigate local services, or to obtain redress. HealthWatch will clearly cover and be seen to cover both health and social care

Built on success: HealthWatch will not be a complete departure from current arrangements, but will build on local strengths in LINks, scrutiny, community engagement, advocacy and public involvement. It will draw on the expertise and commitment of LINks volunteers, while widening the pool of those involved. HealthWatch will add value to – and not undo - things that are already working well at local level. HealthWatch will continue to evolve in response to local needs, opportunities and circumstances, and not have imposed on it a fixed set of arrangements.

Supported: HealthWatch will thrive in an environment where there is a collaborative approach to the design, delivery and monitoring of services at local level and where commissioners and providers actively seek to involve patients, service-users and communities.

A successful National HealthWatch will be:

Independent, democratic and credible - and seen to be.

Intelligent – in its ability to gather, marshal and deploy local intelligence

Influential – with key national players, in particular the National Commissioning Board and CQC, based on its intelligence and connections.

Well-connected – to local HealthWatch whose work it will promote at a national level.

Valued by local HealthWatch – as a result of the support and guidance it provides and its influence with national players.

February 2011

"V" for Vacancy - Can LINK Core Groups Survive

Picture Courtesy Of Roy Corbison

Pictured above , once the fuller apple but finally eaten by elected worms, a brave Local Involvement Network (LINK) Core Group member shows their determined "V" for Vacancy stance .....

When asked about their stance they stated :

"Emptiness is fine - after all, you can slide down it forever .. You know , after the public money we used up ....

So it's onward to the Health Watch yellow prick road - somewhere out there over the lovely blue Cameronbow...... There's probably a pot of blue gluey mess at the end of it too ..


Saturday, March 05, 2011

Anonymous Interview With Birmingham LINK Core Group Member

Birmingham LINK Core Group member's Identity disguised

UserWatch was contacted by email by someone (CG Anon) who has served on the Birmingham Local Involvement Network (LINk) Core Group (a social care and health monitoring group consisting of volunteers who get expenses) and issues were raised of what is happening and has been happening at the Birmingham Local Involvement Network (LINk).

the Birmingham LINk will have cost £1.6 million by the time it ends in 2011 . It may transfer into a new Health Watch body which the Government seems to believe is the new way forwards . It may be dumped though too because of its awkward performances .

UW: What has made you want to speak out about the Birmingham LINk to UserWatch ?

CG ANON : Well the Birmingham Evening Mail first highlighted problems in early 2010 of what actually was caused by amateurism at the LINk . The training was poor and others too have made the points that the LINk became kind of locked into inaction or diversionary actions in 2009 . It had started poorly in 2008 convincing itself it had re-invent all the good practice wheels and to have a Core Group with elections for that.

That has ended up being an expensive mistake .

UW: How do you mean expensive ?

CG ANON : Well it has been expensive in a number of ways . The cost of LINk elections have been well over £3000 and I know of two at least and when you consider there has only been under 250 voters at best for a Birmingham wide body , the expense is just not justified. It creates lost opportunities for good work elsewhere . It diverts money unreasonably . These thngs are being said by other LINk members who want reform . The other sad fact is some people without real experience of being involved in the practical aspects of social care service user and health monitoring have been attracted to the LINk for the wrong reasons ......... Although I am not going to go into detail here. Maybe later ...

Expensive too, because the Core Group was supposed to be "strategic" in value and just has not been that at all . Several members of it are disgusted that even now we still do not have properly agreed upon Standard Operating Procedures that people have faith in.

UW : So you think there have been failures ?

CG ANON : Oh yes , and there has been a lack of serious and effective scrutiny on the LINk as to how it was performing and Birmingham City Council also missed a real chance to put matters right far earlier in 2009 because it treated the LINk far too independently.

The problem is too that the LINk Core Group appear to have played into the imperial belief that merely by going to a few meetings with people in in "higher places" and Bham City Council's Adult and Communities that somehow that was strategically representing the LINk . In fact some of us are aware that very poor reporting back about meeting has occured and therefore others on the LINK have not been tipped off about policy type directions that the services were travelling in . How was that strategic?

UW : So lets get this right . The LINk has a small voter base and that could give rise to just a few people with their supporters determining its directions and its is also poorly performance managed by Birmingham Council ?

CG ANON : Yes , that is an interpretation that quite a few people have come to . This is why elected LINk Core Groups do not make sense and it has been said more recently by disheartened LINk members that a qualification for working on the LINK has to be a working and performance managed one.

UW: Are you saying that elected representation is bad then ?

CG ANON : Of course not . Democracy matters but the LINk really ought to be about performance driven engagements and monitoring social care and health services . It should not be driven by using precious money to pay for elections that cannot be justified on a voter base that shows that not enough Birmingham people are not interested in that.

The LINk has really missed the point too of not seeing there is already a elected representative base in the local councilors that should have been really engaged with . Why duplicate that idea and actually do it badly ?

UW: So what is the solution .

CG ANON: Well it has to be down to getting well trained people who can do the volunteer job of properly monitoring social care and health services with performance managed methods and there is no doubt some of the more genuine action groups on the LINk have developed those alone with little Core Group input because the experience was not always inside the Core Group, although some has been .

UW: Yeah, but what about public engagement and how could you build that with those ideas?

CG ANON : Well.... I can now see some of the action groups on the LINk have got it right in so far as they build public interest and engagement by practical actions that create reputation and a few of them have been showing this . The problem is we may have got wiser too late and this kind of way forwards should have been happening inside 2009 which was wasted on creating election structures and endless changing rules which we might have adopted from pre-existing good practice sources .

UW: So who is to blame or at fault here

CG ANON : Well I have read up a great deal now after coming into the Local Involvement Network scene . The Department of Health of course dismantled so much under the last Labour Govt . First , the Community Health Councils went and the Commission body which steered the next phase of patient and public involvement development were under orders not to allow CHC's as they lost power , to interfere with the then 2003 created Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums .

You can read these things inside records of parliamentary proceedings. The LINk idea was yet another change in 2008 which broke faith inside people some of whom were good PPI health monitors and many left the arena which meant inexperience took over again and again.

Inexperience when its not properly assisted either or checked properly by the Local Authority that should have performance managed its contract with more backbone finally creates its own defensive lack of insights . Failure is difficult to own . That has been been said by a few people now on the Birmingham LINk

It appears too no manuals of PPI good practice were created as exit strategies and therefore loss of experienced people also meant loss of a monitoring culture. This culture of public volunteers who can monitor service behaviour well is for instance really needed inside issues of learning disability , dementia , physical disability, and parts of mental health where finally the patient choice culture may not be the future driver for more quality .

UW : Okay, thanks for the email exchanges with parts of UserWatch . Are you going to keep in touch?

CG ANON : Well no doubt UserWatch will be monitoring the Birmingham LINk . I hope you are fair and see that a few people meant well but as for others you can judge for yourself . I will stay in touch and keep a watch on you lot too .

UW : We love attention and we have a few people in Birmingham that we will contact to keep these channels open that watch the LINk . It all sounds a bit sad really but thanks for speaking out .