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Minister must respect health volunteers - says CPPIH Chair

Ministers must learn to respect those who volunteer for public service - if they are serious about putting the public back into health decision-making.

That’s the message from CPPIH chair Sharon Grant who said Government has to learn some hard lessons if it is to avoid patient involvement turning into a “token gesture or talking shop”.

Sharon Grant will tomorrow (Tuesday) tell hundreds of members of Patient and Public Forums that Government needs to learn from the experience of CPPIH and volunteers.

She said:

“People do want to be involved in improving conditions in their communities. Despite all the sceptics who tell us that people today can’t be bothered we were able to recruit 5,000 people who do care.

“But how you treat people giving their time free of charge is important! They are not paid employees who will respond to orders, and cannot be marched by the scruff of the neck in certain directions. They have quite frankly not been given a fair deal.“

Speaking at the first national convention of PPI Forum members, Sharon Grant also urged Government to ensure that it has a long-term strategy for independent patient and public involvement that really does involve people

She said:

“Involving the public must be part of a wider, long-term strategy, with clear objectives - and not just a token gesture or a talking shop.

“This is a huge challenge to the entrenched attitudes and ways of working of managers and professionals in the NHS in particular and, indeed, anywhere you are seeking to involve the public in decision-making.

“There are real questions which governments have to ask themselves.

· “How much influence are they really prepared to give patients and the public?

· “Are the fine words about making the NHS patient-centred just rhetoric, or do they really mean what they say?

· “How can patients and the public really influence the big national and strategic decisions about health, as well as the local ones about service delivery on their doorstep, in their own trusts?.

“Or is there now a really a big No Entry sign up when it comes to allowing a real national independent voice for patients and the public?

Sharon Grant also warned Ministers of a skills gap in the area of supporting volunteers and promoting public engagement.

She said:

“Government departments please take note – there is very limited capacity out there for supporting public engagement of any kind.

“CPPIH has had to grow its own capacity - quite successfully I think – but it was wrong of the Department of Health to think that it could be grown in 10 months, and they would be wrong if they think this can be done again just as quickly under the new arrangements.

“There is a skills gap, which needs to be addressed rapidly if you are really serious about public engagement with public services.”

Notes to editors

1. Check against delivery. Commission chair, Sharon Grant will make a welcome speech and introduction at 11am.

2. The national convention of members of Patient and Public Involvement in Health Forums is taking place on June 7 and June 8 at the ICC, Broad Street, Birmingham.

3. For more details call CPPIH on 0121 222 4546.

4. There are 572 Patient and Public Involvement Forums - one for every NHS Trust and Primary Care Trust. Their members, almost 5,000 PPI forum volunteers, work on local health decision making.

5. The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health is an independent body which ensures that the public is involved in decision making about health and health services.

6. Details of the CPPIH's work are on our website

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