Yesterday I attended the inaugural meeting of the Swindon Local Involvement Network (LINk), which has been created to monitor and comment on public-funded health and adult social care in Swindon. It has limited powers: just the right to ask questions of NHS services and the council’s scrutiny committee and to insist they answer within a set time.
The meeting was an odd affair. I had signed up in response to a flier enclosed with my annual Council Tax bill. Until yesterday I knew nothing of the history behind its creation. LINks replace, though with a wider remit, Patient and Public Involvement Forums, which had been created then abolished by the government in the space of five years. All but three of those that turned up to the inaugural meeting — a grand total of thirteen — had been members of those forums, several with fairly blunt axes to grind about the re-organisation. Others seemed almost as interested in setting-up a complicated committee structure and what the procedure would be for their travel and subsistence claims than they were in health and social services. Almost all were retired: apart from the officers from Swindon Borough Council and Voluntary Action Swindon there in support, I was the youngest person. Hardly a representative group. There is a target for 2000 people to be involved. So far, only thirty have expressed an interest. It has a long way to go.
The first thing the Swindon LINk has been asked to provide an opinion on is the new ‘GP-led health centre’ to be built in central Swindon. One can only hope that it has become a larger and more representative group before it gives a response.