Monday, 23 July 2012

Press Release on Healthwatch from NALM

PRESS RELEASE                                                                         July 23 2012

Healthwatch must be the peoples’ independent, powerful, public watchdog in health and social care

A report by NALM analysing the results of FOIs sent to 152 Local Authorities in England has explored progress with development of Local Healthwatch (LHW), following Royal Assent of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. The survey explored funding, transition of LINks to Healthwatch, involvement in Health and Wellbeing Board and public engagement in the development of Local Healthwatch.

The survey showed many local are authorities are doing excellent work in collaboration with Local Involvement Networks (LINks) to establish Healthwatch, but that only 58% of local authorities were able to confirm that resources were in place for LINks to continue their work until abolished in March 31st 2013.

Government policy that LINks should go through a transition to Local Healthwatch whenever possible was not evidenced by the survey, which showed that whilst 51% of local authorities were working closely with the LINk to establish Local Healthwatch, there were few examples of genuine transition – notable exceptions were Islington and Hertfordshire. There was little evidence of plans for LINk legacy to be carried forward to LHW and little evidence of public participation from children and young people in the development of LHW. Leading edge examples of public participation were found in Suffolk and Plymouth.

Evidence of local authorities unlawfully taking over the running of LINks (Swindon) or attempting to control the LHW were also revealed, e.g. one local authority is consulting the public on what priorities LHW will have before it even exists.

Malcolm Alexander, Chair of NALM said: "our survey shows great progress in some parts of the country. But, Healthwatch must be an independent of the system it monitors and a powerful public watchdog in health and social care. It is a complete waste of time and money to establish a system of public involvement that is toothless and beholden to the local authority that funds it. We need Healthwatch to be democratic, led by its members, with ring-fenced funding and able to monitor and lead the development of local needs-led services. Local Healthwatch must be able to blow the whistle when services are failing local people. We have made 10 recommendations to Ministers and local authorities".


1)     A renewed government and local authority commitment to the transition of LINKs into Local Healthwatch (LHW)

2)     Use of grant-in-aid by local authorities to enable genuine transition from LINks to LHW

3)     Active public engagement of the community to ensure inclusive and diverse approaches to involving people in the development of the LHW.

4)     Involvement of children and young people in the development of LHW.

5)     Ensure that LINks continue to monitor and influence health and social care with local people until abolition on March 31st 2013.

6)     Ensure LINks legacy carries over to LHW to avoid the loss of experience and knowledge – new organisations usually take two years to establish.

7)     Training for all LINks members in all areas, to ensure that the usual mass migration of volunteers that accompanies the abolition of community organisations is stopped.

8)     Support for LINk members on Health and Wellbeing Board to that they can carry their experience forward to LHW.

9)     LHW should include advice and information services and the Independent advocacy service as an integrated model. Subcontracting bits of LHW will be inefficient, expensive and a waste of time and resources.

10)  Healthwatch England should to advise LHW how to access critical information to assess the safety and quality of local health and social care services.


Malcolm Alexander is Chair of the National Association of LINks Members. He can be contacted on: 0208 809 6551 or 07817505193   -

Ruth Marsden is the Vice Chair of the National Association of LINks Members. She can be contacted on: 01482 849 980 or 07807519933 or

Local Involvement Networks (LINks) were set up by statute in 2008 to give citizens a stronger voice in how health and social care services are delivered.

NALM is the national organisation of Local Involvement Network members and was formed on April 1st 2009. NALM aims to stimulate more powerful approaches to public and user involvement and build a major grass roots movement of LINks and LINks’ members which can influence government policy.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 abolishes LINk and replaces them by Local Healthwatch in 2013. Many of the duties of LINks and LHW will be similar.

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2008 established Local Involvement Networks (LINks) to promote and support the involvement of people in the commissioning, provision and scrutiny of local NHS and care services. They do this by monitoring services and obtaining the views of people about their experiences of care   and making reports and recommendations about how services should be improved, to persons responsible for commissioning, providing, managing or scrutinising local care services.

Note of the development of Healthwatch

Local HealthWatch will take on extra duties such as providing information and signposting to the public who need help with understanding how the NHS and social services structures work, and potentially supplying advocacy for those who need help complaining to the NHS about poor treatment.

 LINks are made up of volunteers, supported by a small professional team. They have responsibility for scrutinising all health and social care services in a local authority area.  They are tasked, by statute, with providing the voice of those who use our health and social care services.

It is intended that Local HealthWatch be the voice of the user and patient, and a guardian of patient safety. LINks and Local HealthWatch should be the first line of defence against another Mid-Staffs, they have a right to inspect services.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

The Afghan Solution - Meeting on Wednesday

I will be going to this meeting on Wednesday. The war is far from over and the casualties continue to mount. Always good to hear what is happening from informed sources rather than establishment media.


organised by Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs

supported by Stop The War Coalition

Wednesday 11th July 2012

18.30 to 20.00

Committee Room 21, House of Commons, SW1A 0AA

via Portcullis House Entrance* (next to Westminster tube station)


How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan

Speaker: Lucy Morgan Edwards

Co-chairs: Paul Flynn MP and Caroline Lucas MP

m  Lucy Morgan Edwards is author of The Afghan Solution: The Inside Story of Abdul Haq, the CIA and How Western Hubris Lost Afghanistan. A former political advisor to the EU Ambassador in Kabul, Lucy has been an election monitor, and a correspondent for the Economist and Daily Telegraph. She spent seven years in the region, including in Jalalabad and Kandahar. Lucy has written papers on post-9/11 Afghanistan, and made presentations on Afghanistan at Chatham House, the Royal Society of Asia Affairs, and the Frontline Club.

m  Afghanistan Withdrawal Group of MPs was launched to press for British withdrawal and consider constructive ways in which the conflict might be ended. The group is co-chaired by MPs Paul Flynn and Caroline Lucas.  Supporters are drawn from across the political parties.

* IMPORTANT: There are likely to be long queues for public entry to the House of Commons via St Stephen’s and other entrances. Please assemble at Portcullis House at 18.15 where parliamentary staff will be waiting to take you to the meeting.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A Pride which is a Shame - excluding older and disabled LGBT people

This email from Age UK London's Open Door Coordinator to older LGBT members in London sums up the sheer anger and frustration from many older and disabled LGBT people who are being excluded from Pride this year. We are either a community for all or we are nothing.

Dear friends and colleagues

Further to the e-mail sent on Friday which contained the July edition of the Opening Doors London newsletter.  As advised, due to the changes and cancellations announced by Pride London, Opening Doors London has had to cancel the brunch (our planned start time for that conflicting with the new start time of the “procession” at 11am), and similarly with the changes in times to other events for the day, we have had to cancel the older LGBT community space at St Anne’s.

In regards to the parade itself, Pride London has announced an exclusion of vehicles from the procession, so we no longer have the Older LGBT Community open decked bus serving as an access vehicle for those wishing to take part but who wouldn’t be able to walk the parade route.

However we also had the Older LGBT Community booked in as a walking group.  Age UK Camden’s Opening Doors London project, although lead agency for involvement at Pride, has maintained this space to allow for other older LGBT groups and individuals taking part.  We HAVE NOT cancelled the Older LGBT Community walking group allocation.  Whilst we are totally opposed to the decision made to bar vehicles from the parade, effectively preventing less mobile and/or disabled people taking part, after much discussion and consideration of all options available, we believe that the older LGBT community still demands a presence and a voice and their rightful place at the front of the parade..  There wouldn’t be a Pride without our older LGBT men and women.

On speaking with several of the members, many are still planning on coming along and taking part in the procession anyway, so Opening Doors London will be there unofficially/officially.  Pride London has stated “let’s take the parade back to its roots”.  Well, we intend to do just that, with a few well worded placards and banners too… Please feel free to bring your own, lets really show Pride how LGBT veterans campaign!!  We just regret that many of our friends won’t be able to join us on the day due to the cutbacks and not having our bus!

Pride has advised us that we will be in the Red Section Number 21 in the parade. Line-up is in Baker Street with the red section being between Fitzharding Street up to George Street and you should arrive from 10:15am to 10:30 am for an 11am start. We will have our usual “Older LGBT Community” banner.  But like I said please feel free to bring your own banner.

As you know, months have gone into planning our celebration of World Pride, not just for the older LGBT community, but for LGBT groups and individuals everywhere, at considerable investment in time and money to groups and to individuals. This has now been LOST!   To have the parade scaled down, vehicles barred (especially our older LGBT access bus) and whole sections of the day is a total disgrace.  We assure you that we at Age UK Camden’s Opening Doors London, along with colleagues throughout the LGBT sector, will be pushing for an investigation into how we were allowed by different organisations involved to arrive at this shambolic affair.

Maybe see you on Saturday.

Best wishes

Nick Maxwell

LGBT Development Coordinator (men)
phone:  020 7239 0446

Age UK Camden
Tavis House, 1 - 6 Tavistock Square, London, WC1H 9NA

Reception: 020 7239 0400

Fax: 020 7383 2550

Now to be known as Age UK Camden