The interests of patients and public

PUBLISHED: 08:57 15 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:26 24 May 2010

COMMENTING in your editorial January 5 on the sad circumstances surrounding the death of an elderly patient at Weston Hospital last August

COMMENTING in your editorial January 5 on the sad circumstances surrounding the death of an elderly patient at Weston Hospital last August you asked: 'Who takes the patient's part when hospitals fall down on the job? Is there a patient's advocate on the governing body?'The answer is the independent Patient and Public Involvement Forum (PPIF), which exists to represent the interests of patients and the public to the hospital, and vice versa. We have certain statutory powers to enter and inspect the hospital, our findings are always published and the hospital has a legal obligation to respond. We work alongside the local authority's health overview and scrutiny committee, and we have an input to the Health Care Commission's annual health check. Most important, though, is that we have a seat at meetings of the trust board and many of the other significant management meetings, including infection control. I myself attend and contribute to meetings of the hospital's risk and clinical governance committee.You rightly say that your report of the August events "is a story that tends to wipe out the testimony of those who write... in praise of the treatment they have received." I can assure your readers that no-one is more sensitive to the damaging effects of such episodes than the hospital managers. Part of the forum's work is to keep it that way, and I must say that they are always very alert to our frequently critical observations.Helping to keep things in proportion, two further items in the same edition of your paper reminded your readers that the hospital is continually striving, with notable success, to improve and enhance its services. One was the brief review by the chief executive in which he noted some of the past year's achievements and looked forward to the opening of the new children's Seashore Centre. The other described the refurbishment of the maternity unit run by staff who won the title of the nation's Maternity Team of the Year. Officially one of the country's top 40 hospitals two years running. Weston General is jealous of its growing reputation, and I am sure will never ignore unacceptable conduct. In that, at least, it has the PPIF's full support.FERNLEY SYMONSVice chair, Weston Hospital Patient and Public Involvement Forum

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