Statistics show people in England will use the NHS an average of 2,153¹ times during their lifetime, the equivalent of once a fortnight. And with individuals having so many NHS experiences, the 150 Local Involvement Networks (LINks) around England are today urging people to have their say in shaping existing and future health and social care services.
The figures also highlight the wide ranging reasons the NHS is used and it is estimated that during our lives we will take out 1,330 prescriptions, make 31 visits to Accident & Emergency and take 12 ambulance journeys.
Despite the vast number of times we use it, new research shows that only 22%² of people have proactively had a say on how health and care services could better suit their needs. However, research also highlights that more people would like to have a say, with 6 out of 10 people stating they would like to input their views on how local health or social care services could be improved, if there was a simple way to do so.
LINks aim to give people a stronger voice on how their health and social care services are delivered. Run by individuals and community groups and independently supported, the role of a LINk is to find out what people want, monitor local services and to use their powers to hold them to account. A LINk exists in every local authority area.
1 Sources: QMAE 2008/09, General Household Survey 2006, Q research data 2008, Information Centre 2008/09, Reference costs 2007/08, RCGP & Prescription Cost Analysis (2007/08). Based on population of England of 50,064,883 and an average life expectancy of 79.8
² Source: Ipsos MORI research conducted on behalf of Department of Health between 08.01.10 – 10.01.10. Results based on 848 telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of adults aged 16+ in England
Health Secretary, the Right Hon Andy Burnham MP said:
"Our health and care services must reflect the needs of the community they serve. In order to ensure they are relevant at a local level, they really need patients and members of the public to let them know what works and what doesn’t; what would be useful and what wouldn’t. The more people that get involved in their Local Involvement Network, the more powerful their voice is and therefore the more impact they can have. This is essential at a time when the NHS must make sure that it is improving quality at the same time as value.
Health Secretary, the Right Hon Andy Burnham MP said: "Our health and care services must reflect the needs of the community they serve. In order to ensure they are relevant at a local level, they really need patients and members of the public to let them know what works and what doesn’t; what would be useful and what wouldn’t. The more people that get involved in their Local Involvement Network, the more powerful their voice is and therefore the more impact they can have. This is essential at a time when the NHS must make sure that it is improving quality at the same time as value.
"The NHS belongs to us all. The NHS Constitution places your rights at the heart of the NHS and your contribution and support is vital in achieving a better service for everyone."
Since their introduction in 2008, communities are already seeing the benefits of being involved with their LINk with positive changes being made to the way their health and care services are being run. Some examples include:
- South Tyneside LINk has dramatically reduced waiting times for young people needing orthodontic care
- Merton LINk has ensured breast screening services provide materials in braille for the visually impaired
- Norfolk LINk has put an extra level on consultation in place to guarantee services for ME sufferers are not changed or removed without their go ahead
- Sutton LINk has set up a women’s language project to help give newly arrived communities better access to health services
- Dorset LINk has facilitated a review of dementia services
Getting involved in LINks is easy and it is up to the individual how and when they interact. Some reasons to take part include:
* To draw attention to neglected issues or ideas
* To influence those who make decisions about new or existing health and social care services
* To help your community speak with a stronger voice
* To help services provide better care.
³ The 150th LINk was launched in 2009
Barbara Robinson, LINk participant said:
"For many years we unsuccessfully battled to secure justice and equal rights for people with ME. It wasn’t until our LINk offered to support our campaign that we felt as though we had a voice.
"Over the past 12 months, inspired and supported by our LINk, we’ve been able to give our campaign the sort of exposure it needs and are seeing the benefits of being a LINk member.
"We hope our success will encourage other local and national groups to explore the LINks model and way of resolution."
For more information, and to find your nearest LINk, please visit: www.nhs.uk/links
Notes to editors
1. A number of communication activities are taking place to raise awareness of what people have a right to expect from the NHS and the action people can take to help improve the care they, their families and communities receive.
2. The NHS Constitution was published on 21 January 2009. It sets out the rights and responsibilities that patients and the public have and explains what they can expect from the NHS. The Health Act 2009 will place a legal obligation on all organisations providing NHS care to have regard to the NHS Constitution in their decisions and actions.
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