Tag: health

Making a bureaucracy out of representation

I’ve previously written about the Swindon Local Involvement Network (though the information on the council’s website is more informative than their new website). Swindon LINk is now progressing… to a fully fledged bureaucracy. The administrators appointed by the council to support the group are currently trying to recruit a ‘Start Up Group’. The principle task of the group during its six-month existence? To set-up another group.

Tasks of the Start up Group

  • To plan the setting up of the LINk Steering group
  • To agree a development and engagement policy for LINk membership
  • To develop and agree a work program for the LINk
  • To develop a terms of reference for the theme based working groups
  • To agree expense policy
  • To develop the relevant policies for Swindon LINk
  • To agree a complaints policy

All that for a group with a mailing list of just over forty people. And note the mention not just of a steering group, but of talking shops working groups too. This little group seems set on creating a web of committees more akin to a government department than to small players in the provision of local health services.

If they really want to match their name and involve local people, rather less talk and more action would be a better approach: skip the Start Up Group and get straight to work.

Promiscuous healthcare

Good news for the elderly in North Swindon: Virgin Healthcare have abandoned plans to run a health centre in Swindon. It seems that Virgin were mainly interested in practices with large numbers of ‘young male professionals’* in their catchment, which is why they were interested in Taw Hill Practice. With their chief executive leaving too*, it looks like it’ll be quite some time before garish red starts appearing outside doctors’ surgeries.

* Links to a site that only allows ‘deep linking’ after the first visit.

Going private

In all the fuss over the proposal for a new ‘GP led health centre’ in central Swindon, there’s one argument that I find rather empty, and that’s whether the centre might or should be run by a ‘private provider’. Today’s letter to the Adver from the Whalebridge Practice has raised the point again.

We have reservations about the planned introduction of so-called polyclinics and private providers and question if such ventures are wanted, needed or provide an effective use of valuable resources.

What seems to be forgotten is that the existing GP practices are not as public-sector as some might think. The GPs run their own practices under contract to the NHS: they are not employees of the NHS in the way that a nurse is. I wonder whether what is concerning the GPs more, as has often concerned them during the sixty years of the NHS, is the threat to their independence that these centres might pose. Although branded as ‘GP led’, with some of the commercial organisations that have expressed an interest, it is clear that they may not be ‘GP controlled’.

Swindon LINk

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.