Patient and user involvement has been made an article of faith by
this government as it seeks to develop health and social care
services. The new inspection commissions for social care and for
health have reinforced this stance.
But in the health service and some of its social care partnerships
at least, the system for making patient involvement happen is a
Community health councils, which many thought had served the
interests of patients well, were scrapped last December. They were
supposed to be replaced by patient and public involvement forums in
every area, putting users and carers at the centre of things. Yet
in many parts of England, they have got off to a shaky start and,
more than four months after the demise of CHCs, many patients lack
a credible voice concerning service provision and development.
It is vital that the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement
in Health, charged with establishing the local forums, gets a grip
on the situation if the dire predictions of chaos before CHCs were
abolished are not to come true. New Labour has promised more
democratised public services and this is a major test of its
ability to deliver.