Letter to the Editor
• As a patient representative for NHS London and the Royal Free Hospital for the past 10 years I would like to respond to your Comment of December 3.
The changes at the Royal Free have been dramatic.
Cleanliness, health care infection disease rates (nurses winning HST award), mortality rates (second lowest in the country), stroke treatment (second best in the country), gives just a taster, while cancer, plastic surgery, trauma and treatment are first-class.
The Patient and Public Involvement Health Forum (PPIF) had inspection rights and used them on more than 26 occasions, in collaboration with infection control and maintenance.
The small team of volunteers were very effective.
Both John Reid and the commission who set up the PPIFs had a lot to answer for, the former for sounding their immediate death knell and the latter for keeping them short of direct funding, adequate bases and equipment (computers) etc. Nevertheless remarkable achievements were attained by small teams of volunteers.
Your comments that community health councils had achieved a great deal but the idea that nothing of value followed is nonsense.
The government, in its infinite wisdom, finally killed off PPIFs some four years after their inception, just when they were becoming effective.
When reading about the problems with trusts, foundation or other, these were due to allowing self- assessments, inadequate monitoring, with the result of unacceptable mortality rates, dirty wards, poor attitudes, something inevitable.
Both the Health Care Commission and the Care Quality Commission were recommended by myself to have PPIF members helping with inspection as they knew where the skeletons might be hidden.
The response was this would present difficulties.
I hope those who suffered inadequate care or worse, appreciated the difficulties.
Good luck to the LINks, the local involvement networks.
Governor Royal Free Hospital and former chair of PPIF 2004-2008
• Your Editorial of December 3’s grudging acknowledgement of the recent Dr Foster think tank naming of University College London Hospitals as foundation trust of the year, and the country’s best hospital trust, amounted to “damning with faint praise”.
I suspect this was to add credibility to your support for the recreation of Community Health Councils to scrutinise the NHS.
As a one-time member of the old Bloomsbury Community Health Council, and now an elected governor of UCLH, I know that I and my governing body colleagues have greater powers than under the old model. We appoint (and can remove) the trust chairman and non-executive directors, and fix their remuneration.
We are consulted on and are fully involved in forward strategy and planning.
We receive financial reports and accounts, and the Audit report. And in the case of UCLH, it has been the governing body which has successfully pressed for the trust’s focus on high quality patient care above all else.
Whatever the case with the remainder of the local NHS, where I accept there is a democratic deficit, UCLH in its five years as a foundation trust with a democratically-elected governing body representing patients, public and staff, has gone from strength to strength.
It is one of only few in the country to be officially rated “excellent” both for medical care and financial resource management.
It successfully treats more patients every year.
A year ago it opened the £70million brand new Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing, already hugely popular with mothers.
It has started work on what by 2011 will be a new state-of-the-art cancer centre.
I hope you and your readers will attend more of our governing body meetings to get first-hand information and see us in action.
I also urge readers to join the membership, vote in and stand for our annual elections.
(elected local patient governor, UCLH)