In the most extraordinary spectacle I have ever witnessed in over 40 years of attending public meetings and meetings of public bodies (two different things) on Wednesday evening, Brent NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) fell out spectacularly with its patient representatives. In short, the CCG refused a perfectly reasonable, unanimous patient request to change the order of the agenda items of the patient engagement meeting and in the face of patient disapproval, decided to close the meeting with no business having been transacted. The badly run meetings (by a CCG public appointee) had failed consistently to run on accepted lines, namely, apologies, approval of minutes. matters arising etc. and as a result, minutes of meetings held in November 2013, March 2014 and May 2014 have never been approved and therefore cannot be put onto the CCG website for the benefit of the public at large.
The law requires CCGs to consult with patients and the public on proposed changes to the delivery of health services. Failure to comply with the requirement can be serious with the CCG being challenged by providers as well as by individual patients and groups of patients who perceive changes as being detrimental. Even if the CCG is confident that it is making the best decision, it still needs to go through a proper and proportionate public engagement process.
In order to meets these legal obligations, the CCG set up a committee of its Governing Body called the Equality, Diversity and Engagement (EDEN) Committee to provide itself with assurance that its public involvement activity in the multiplicity of proposed service changes was as robust as it should be.
My fellow patient reps and I (some, appointed by the CCG and others, elected by fellow patients) worked really hard to help the CCG and pointed out where it could be open to challenge. We take the view that we are neither a rubber stamp nor nodding donkeys, and it is our duty to withhold the desired assurances if patient involvement is unsatisfactory. The CCG did not appreciate this one little bit and started a smear campaign against patient reps saying that we were failing in our duties.
The CCG is effectively rewriting the rules to tell patient reps how they must act. In the course of doing so, they are also breaching all of the accepted rules of public body committee procedure and have stated that their particular public body (the CCG) does not have to act in accordance with these norms.
I have taken up this guest blog spot, courtesy of Martin Francis, because there is nowhere officially in Brent CCG for patients to air their views on matters of public involvement in proposed changes to local health services as is required by s14Z2 of the NHS Act 2006 as amended by the Health and Social Care Act 2012. It would be interesting to hear what others patients and members of the public have to say.