ANNUAL REPORT 2004 - 2005

Summary of Activities 2004 –2005

September AGM held which included a Review of Arms Length Bodies - Implications for patient and public involvement given by Meredith Vivian, Head of Patient and Public Involvement, Department of Health

November Review of Foundation Trusts. Speaker: Paul Durham, Senior Policy Officer, Healthcare Commission

January Driving Improvement in Health - A New Approach. Speakers: Alison Cahn & Jose King, Healthcare Commission, Patient and Public Engagement in Assessment for Improvement Consultation

February Patients Forum Conference - ‘Delivering Health For All - Public Health & Social Inclusion’

March The Freedom of Information Act and its impact on Health Services. Speakers: Maurice Frankel, Campaign for Freedom of Information; Sue Markey, Information Commissioner’s Office & John Grenville, British Medical Association

April Progress Report on Patient & Public Involvement. Speaker: Meredith Vivian, Head of Patient & Public Involvement, Department of Health

May Palliative Care - In the light of the Select Committee Inquiry, what are the outstanding issues, what is the government doing about them and what can we do? Speakers: Erica Young, National Council for Palliative Care & Claire Henry, End of Life Care Initiative, NHS

June Consultation on issues arising from the use of ID cards to prove entitlement for free NHS treatment between the Patients Forum and the Department of Health.

July Dental complaints within the private sector. Speaker: Gordon Miles, Director, Private Patient Complaints, General Dental Council. The role of the National Clinical Assessment Services (NCAS) in relation to dentistry. Speaker: Dr Janine Brooks, Associate Director (Dentistry), NCAS

Chair’s Report

Health: a fast moving policy agenda

This year’s General Election already feels like something of a distant memory. As ever, the future of healthcare has been near the top of the agenda. In the past year, we have seen the government set out its public health agenda with the publication of the Choosing Health White Paper, and continue its programme of structural reform within the NHS. We’ve learned about the demise of some organisations, and have seen others being given more power and responsibility.

Government policy continues to prioritise a greater ‘personalisation’ of healthcare, and an increasing process of devolution which sees power shifted from the centre out to other agencies and bodies, and down to local level. The forthcoming White Paper on ‘care outside of hospital’, expected before the turn of the year, will undoubtedly reinforce and accelerate the reform process.

The Patients Forum continues to provide a unique opportunity for policy makers and patient groups to work together to improve the outcomes for real people, by creating opportunities for debate, exchange and the sharing of information. Our primary goal remains to assist our member organisations in playing a significant part in the policy making process in the interests of their patient and citizen ‘constituents’. In short, we are working to ensure that the benefits and gains of improving health and healthcare services are shared equally by all.

Helping our members to influence policy

The prinicpal objective of the Patients Forum is to assist our members in influencing policy and practice, by creating opportunities for dialogue with policy and decision makers. In the past year, we have maintained our schedule of bi-monthly meetings, covering such diverse subjects as patient and public involvement, the mechanisms by which the performance of Foundation Trusts will be monitored and reviewed, and the new system for assessing performance more broadly within the NHS. In addition, the Patients Forum has remained responsive to the fast-moving nature of the policy agenda, with the flexibility to organise ad hoc seminars on key issues.

In the post-devolution health care world, there are an increasing number of agencies and organisations with whom it is necessary to engage in order to create the opportunities to work together. The Patients Forum remains well placed to provide that vital service both to our members, and to other stakeholder bodies. This year, we have sought tostrengthen our relationship with key stakeholder bodies by offering the service that the Patients Forum can provide to organisations who are keen to listen to the consumer’s voice. This year, the Patients Forum held a conference on the subject of social inclusion and public health, which explored how the Government’s ambitions to improve the nation’s health can be shared by all. The conference provided an opportunity for patient organisations and stakeholder bodies such as Primary Care Trusts to hear from key figures in public health, and to consider issues including communication and access, as well as to explore the potential for ‘joining up’ policy drivers to deliver health for all.

Helping our members to share information

In such a fast moving policy field, just keeping up can feel like a full time role. One of the major strengths of the Patients Forum is our ability to help to share information among our members, and to do our bit to lighten that load. Our bi-monthly newsletter helps our members stay up-to-date with the latest developments, and also to share information and news. Often, it is the small bit of information that gets picked up from the newsletter, or our information exchange, that can bring organisations with common interests together.

Steering the Patients Forum

This year, we have again co-opted a number of associate members to join the Patients Forum Management Committee, following the success of this approach last year. This not only ensures that the Forum is working in the interests of all of its members, but also underlines the common values and objectives that member organisations all share around ensuring that the patient voice is heard loud and clear at all levels.

At the beginning of the year, we sought feedback from members on future activities that the Patients Forum should consider, and in the past year we have been working to implement many of those suggestions. For instance, we are exploring how the website could be better used to share information, and have been working with other networks both to avoid duplication of efforts and to maximise our collective impact.

Earlier in the year, we also sought members’ views on whether we should change our name to minimise the confusion with the Patient and Public Involvement Forums. At that time, the future of patient and public involvement structures was unclear, and perhaps not surprisingly the outcome of that exercise was a 50:50 split. Our priority for the coming year must be to sharpen our focus.

The future

The Patients Forum exists to provide our members with opportunities to ensure that the patient and consumer voice is heard within health care. With such a live policy agenda on the horizon, and an increasingly devolved health care system, it is more important than ever that we remain focused on providing patient and consumer organisations with real opportunities and means to drive the policy and practice agenda forward.

The priority for the future, therefore, is to ensure that the Patients Forum continues to provide its members with such opportunities, and that we are able to fulfil our goals of delivering health and access to quality care for all.

Thanks

As always, I must extend my thanks to all of the members of the management committee who have helped to steer the work of the Patients Forum over the previous year. Particular thanks must go to Elizabeth Manero, who stood down as Vice Chair of the Patients Forum earlier this year, for her positive contribution to the Forum’s work.

It is customary in reports such as this to thank those people who have kept things moving from behind the scenes. Diana Basterfield’s work as Project Manager goes far beyond a ‘behind-the-scenes’ contribution, and I remain very grateful for her continued support and dedication.

Finally, as members of the Patients Forum, we should thank one another for making the network what it is. As we shape the Patients Forum to ensure that it is able to meet the future policy challenges in health care, I look forward to continuing to work with you all.