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August 2006

Hospital Food – have NHS Trusts found the right recipe?

 New campaign asks patients and visitors – “Are you getting a square meal?”


A nationwide campaign entitled ‘Food Watch' is launched today to discover patient and visitor views on hospital food and refreshments. The campaign, which is being undertaken by Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums across England , will be one of the largest user surveys of its kind. Food Watch will look at the cost, quality and availability of food and drink for inpatients, their visitors and outpatients.


The Forums, who represent patients and the public in decisions about health, decided action needed to be taken after receiving complaints and concerns on availability, price and quality of hospital food and drink. There has also been a rise in the number of hospitals who now have fast-food outlets such as Burger King, and Costa Coffee cafes appearing in hospital foyers replacing more traditional shops and cafes.


The Forums will conduct surveys throughout hospitals in England to discover the cost of drinks and snacks in both inpatient and outpatient sites, as well as exploring the range of food offered to inpatients and responses to hospital food in general.

Key issues will include:

•  Temperature of food

•  Menu changes – especially for those in long term care

•  Choices to fit diet, lifestyle or religious considerations

•  Availability of healthy options

•  Cost of refreshments

•  Help with eating


Sharon Grant, Chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) commented:


“Despite the many initiatives to improve hospital food for patients, PPI Forums continue to receive feedback from patients and their visitors that food is still being served at the wrong temperature, that some patients are not given adequate time or help to eat their meals and there are still issues surrounding the choice and quality of food provided. There is also increasing concern that high-street names are now providing food and drink in some hospitals – giving outpatients and their visitors only fast food or expensive coffee shops as options. Now PPI Forums want to get a national picture, and therefore CPPIH is supporting them in launching the Food Watch campaign.”

Food Watch follows the recent highly successful Fair Talk campaign where PPI Forums highlighted the excessive costs of hospital bedside telephones.


PPI Forums will be conducting their research throughout September and the results will be published in October this year.

July 2006

CPPIH welcomes new PPI proposals – but we must build on past experience


In response to today's announcement that the Department of Health is to create Local Involvement Networks (LINks) to replace PPI Forums, the Chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement (CPPIH) commented:


“PPI Forums with their 5,000 members across England have achieved so much in such a short timescale. Their impact has been felt throughout the entire NHS.


However, the government has decided that with a radically changing NHS a much wider patient and public involvement system is required.


We welcome, of course, the vision contained in these proposals. We all see the need for much wider involvement in health matters. However, it is important that we do not overlook the value of the tremendous work that the present PPI Forums have done, and ensure that the experience of Forums forms the basis of the new local networks. We know, and share many concerns they have about what is proposed, and will represent them to the Department of Health.


We are eager to see the detail behind the proposals, hold further discussions and to work with the Department of Health on the transition arrangements, but in the meantime we have several very clear messages:

•  The Department of Health must learn from the past. Patients and the public were left in a vacuum between the demise of Community Health Councils and PPI Forums becoming effective. This can't happen again;

•  PPI Forum members are an asset that we can't afford to ignore. Their experience and knowledge will be essential in developing and implementing the new system

•  LINks need to be properly resourced, and have teeth

•  LINks need to be truly independent from the NHS "


As yet there have been no definitive details published by the Department of Health on the expected timescales for these changes. It has been previously announced that the CPPIH will be abolished in the summer of 2007, but no exact date has been revealed. An intense and complex legislative process has to be enacted in order to put the new proposals in place.


Mrs Grant concluded:


“What is clear is that PPI Forums will continue to work for the benefit of their local communities up until the day of their abolition. Not only do their statutory powers remain, but they also retain their commitment and conviction in ensuring that the voice of the patient continues to be heard and responded to in all decisions that affect their health and health services.”


June 2006

Disappointment at GP contract ruling as consultation process was ‘flawed'


The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) has today criticised the decision by Mr Justice Collins to dismiss a charge brought by North East Derbyshire patient, Pam Smith against North East Derbyshire PCT, of failure to properly consult in awarding a GP contract to a US firm.


Sharon Grant, Chair of CPPIH, commented:


“This is a very bad day for patient involvement. The decision is a farce. On the one hand Mr Justice Collins agreed that the consultation process was flawed, but then claimed that even if the process had been conducted properly the consequence was likely to have been the same. How does he know? And what does this say for real, effective consultation in our so-called patient-led NHS?”


The case was brought by Pam Smith, from Langwith, who had been concerned that her local NHS Trust – North East Derbyshire Primary Care – had failed to consult properly when it awarded a GP Contract to the US company, United Health Europe.


Mrs Grant concluded:


“As much of the emphasis is now on a health service populated by a range of suppliers, it is vital that consultation is real and meaningful for patients. This case will have an impact not just for the people of North East Derbyshire, but sends a message to all patients throughout England . The message is a worrying one; especially as it would appear to give a legal licence to PCTs to practice flawed and ineffective consultation.


It raises some very important questions,


- firstly how does the NHS ensure the future of effective consultation, especially when one of the mechanisms – Patient and Public Involvement Forums have a huge question mark hanging over their future and,

- how can it make sure that it gets the next patient and public involvement strategy - the details of which are due out shortly - right for the NHS and patients?

We call upon Patricia Hewitt, Secretary of State for Health, to immediately review this decision and its impact upon the right of patients and the public to expect and participate in genuine consultation.”

May 2006

CPPIH gives guarded welcome to PPI Resource Centre


Sharon Grant, Chair of the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) gave a guarded welcome to the Department of Health's announcement of the new Patient and Public Involvement Resource Centre. She commented:


“It takes two to have a conversation. While it's good that the NHS will be getting better at talking to the public, it's the public's priorities that must be centre stage, and we need a proper system to make sure they aren't shouted down.


Effective Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) must be a partnership between those who deliver NHS services and the public. It doesn't matter how many different techniques the NHS may use to try to involve patients, they will fail if they can't or won't hear what patients and the public are saying.

Our organisation, a national voice for patients and the public throughout England is to be abolished next year, and the future of local PPI Forums is uncertain. No replacement arrangements have yet been announced. We hope that Ministers will now move urgently to ensure a powerful local and national voice for the public in health for the future.”

Largest ever survey into hospital bedside phone charges reveals why 49p per minute is definitely the Wrong Number for patients!

Hospital bedside Phones - Con or Convenience?

That's what Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums set out to discover when they launched a national campaign, Fair Talk, in April. The results, revealed today will unanimously tell the Department of Health; NHS Trusts and hospital phone system providers, such as Patientline, Hospicom and Premier, that patients, their family and friends believe the charges to be “extortionate” – leading to additional suffering for the patient and further worry for their loved-ones as they count the cost with every call.

Derek Easton from East Kent Hospitals PPI, commented:


“Whilst many of the patients we spoke to welcome the convenience of the system, this was countered by a very strong belief that the charges were exorbitant. Those we surveyed also believed that the patient is being penalised, exploited at a hugely vulnerable time in their lives. We also noted that while evidence has shown that mobile phones do not cause problems with medical equipment, hospital Trusts often prohibit their use giving the patient no choice but to use the expensive bedside systems.”


Over 78 PPI Forums from Northumberland to Devon , conducted the biggest-ever user survey into hospital bedside phone systems, speaking to over 1,200 patients and visitors to hospitals throughout April 2006.


The Fair Talk campaign had been instigated by comments made to PPI Forum members by local people concerned that patients were being exploited by a system from which they were supposed to benefit. In particular, PPI Forums were anxious that those on a fixed income, or regular in-patients would be either left in debt through using the system, or isolated because they couldn't afford to use it and are given no alternative.


The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) coordinated the campaign at the request of PPI Forums and will be sending the findings into the Department of Health's Review team who are also looking at this subject following an investigation by Ofcom.

When it came to the charges the Fair Talk campaign reveals that:

88% of those surveyed believed the cost of calling was expensive or very expensive and that they were calling on NHS Trusts to “reverse the charges”

The highest charges came at over 100 hospitals where Patientline is installed. They charge 39p/min off peak and 49p/min at all other times for inbound calls.

A patient in Frimley Park Hospital was charged nearly £10.00 for one call, leading them to explain it would have been cheaper for them to call relatives in Australia !

For the full press article click here 

For the full summary of results click here

New report demands radical improvements to care for asylum seekers and refugees


A new report calls for urgent action by the NHS and other service providers to dramatically improve care for asylum seekers and refugees. The report and best practice guide entitled ‘ Unheard Voices - listening to the views of Asylum Seekers and Refugees ' will be launched on Wednesday 24 May 2006 at 2pm in The Thatcher Room, Portcullis House, Westminster . The launch is being sponsored by the All Party Parliamentary Group of MPs on Asylum Seekers and Refugees.


The report was commissioned by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) on behalf of the network of 11 Mental Health Patient and Public Involvement Forums in London . The best practice guide and further research builds on preliminary work conducted last year and the recommendations and findings are based on the views of asylum seekers and refugees who were interviewed. The best practice guide sets out nearly 100 recommendations for action. The research, report and guide were prepared by consultants David Palmer and Kim Ward.


The report calls for agencies responsible for commissioning and providing care to take a much more integrated and holistic approach. The report states that poverty, housing and immigration status are the key issues impacting on the mental health of asylum seekers and refugees. These issues need to be addressed as well as ensuring sensitive and accessible mental health services.


Commenting on the report, Mike Loosley, Chair of the London Mental Health PPI Forums Network, said: "This is an excellent piece of work by David and Kim and it represents an urgent call to action for the NHS, other service providers and commissioners. Asylum seekers and refugees deserve to be treated with dignity and respect and services should be designed accordingly."

Nyatsanza Harris , Medical Justice , commented: “The forced decision for one to flee from there country is not any easy one. Many asylum seekers coming from war torn countries have experienced some of the most horrifying and life shattering stories. On behalf of those asylum seekers that have been welcomed into England , may I express my gratitude to CPPIH, and the authors, for commissioning the report.


“Britain has a long tradition of providing hospitality to those persecuted by their governments and my hope is that this report will assist those practitioners in health or voluntary organisations who working with asylum seekers gain a better insight into how best to help them through mental health problems. I also hope those with the Home Office will take note of the findings of this report.”

For a copy of the full report and press article click here

April 2006

Response to article in the Guardian 26th April

Are Ministers Listening Now? - Not a silent revolution

There is a great deal to commend in the article by James Johnson (The costs of revolution, Society Guardian, Wednesday 26 th April 2006) and he has most of his facts right, apart from stating the Commission for Patient Public Involvement has already ‘disappeared.’

CPPIH is still active and its Patient Forums are very much alive, continuing to report on the state of the health service and recruit new members. This state of affairs will continue until we are abolished through legislation in the Summer 2007.

In the meantime we eagerly await a Ministerial announcement on the future direction of how patients and Public voices can be heard in the ‘Patient Led NHS’.


Steve Lowden, Chief Executive, CPPIH

April 2006
Response to article in The Times 18th April

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums were introduced a little over two years ago. Many staff and volunteers involved in the Community Health Council system did become involved in the new PPI Forum system and thousands of people who had never volunteered before have also become Forum members.

In the past 28 months, Forums have achieved a great deal:

  • Practically every PPI Forum operating can highlight an issue raised with their Trust or an influence on improvement in delivery of service.
  • Major successes, such as the ‘Bugwatch' campaign which generated many improvements relating to MRSA, have been publicised, whereas a vast majority of minor successes and impacts (of which there are hundreds of examples) tend not to be promoted or receive the recognition deserved.


Nationally, Forums have been responsible for assessing and making recommendations for improvements to Trusts around public concerns such as hygiene and cleanliness, hospital food, transport and access. Forums have and are being listened to by Trusts and changes to service provision are being made as a direct result.

For the full response, please click here.

April 2006

70% of Patient Forums believe that NHS debts will get worse

A survey of Patient Forums across England has revealed that over 70% believe that NHS debts will continue to get worse. The results of this survey are announced as many NHS Trusts prepare to reveal large debts in their 05/06 financial accounts.


The survey, compiled by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH), has found that over 60% of the Patient Forums taking part in the poll believe their local NHS Trust will be cutting services this year. 58% believe that there are also plans to make staff cuts. 

For the full news article, please click here.

April 2006

Hospital Telephones - Con or Convenience? New campaign tells patients - "it's your call!"

A nationwide campaign entitled ‘Fair Talk’ is launched today to discover the views of patients and visitors into hospital bedside television and telephone services. The campaign, which is being undertaken by Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forums across England , will for the first time give consumers of these services the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns.

For the full news article, please click here

The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH)

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