[Just in case you do not know - LINKs stands for "Local Involvement Networks" - the health & social care monitoring bodies that are supposed to hold the UK health and social care services to account .]
In its May 26th 2011 document The National Association For LINk Members writes :
"The ‘HealthWatch Transition Plan’ makes it clear that the decision whether to transform a local LINk into HealthWatch through a process of evolution, or abolish it and establish an entirely new organisation, rests with the Local Authority.
We object to this – we believe it would be wholly unacceptable and an appalling waste of resources, for a Local Authority to abolish a LINk after three years of creating a local people’s champion in health and social care.
Destroying organisations set up to monitor health and social care is disruptive and undermines the safety of our care services. Evolution and transition to HealthWatch must be the way forward."
It appears in Birmingham there is only one evolutionary proposal: "The Round Table Proposal" so far argued to take forwards an efficient LINk/Action Group /Local Authority partnership model (to preserve good health monitoring practice) and it has been agreed at least to be trialled from Oct 2011 .
That agreement was negotiated by two Birmingham LINk Action Group leads - the Chair of the Women's Maternity & Health Action Group and the Co-Chair of the Mental Health Action Group . This is clearly shown in a 9th May 2011 letter from the Council agreed by 3 policy and performance officers :
"In general, we would support the idea of a round-table approach, particularly to facilitate the independent monitoring aspect of the LINk. However, we must bear in mind that HealthWatch will have a much larger remit than that of the LINk. Consultation and engagement is a key role of both the LINk and HealthWatch and we feel that this would need further exploration to see how this can be fulfilled within or alongside the round-table proposal.
The transition period from October to July provides an ideal opportunity to trial this arrangement to see if it could be incorporated into plans for HealthWatch (including how consultation and engagement within or alongside this model would be fulfilled)."
NALM's position in its report supports greater independence from the Local Authority as a provider of services and a commissioner of HealthWatch, and it uses a generalization to justify its position :
"LINks have developed over the past three years into influential local bodies that represent the patients, users, carers and the public in key local decisions affecting health and social care services."
Sadly this is not true of all LINks and some have performed very poorly and thus are ripe for a takeover of their functions . There are Local Authorities who have enough evidence of poor LINk functionality and will be in a position to take over large parts of it with 3rd sector partners already in place and positioned to take up the LINk void .
There are strong signs in Birmingham there is a strong player already in place to take up broader HealthWatch functions .
The Birmingham LINk Core Group has now adopted its latest Version 10 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS) on May 25th 2011 though its very late in the day to have done this .
It is unclear how some of those Core Group members view the evolution of LINK to HealthWatch though some do see the merits of the "Round Table " efficiency approach which is intended to flatten down the management, create efficiency of good practice, more immediate peer review, with strategic vision being shared more quickly .