Concerns about tightness of deadline for NHS services inquiry draft Terms of Reference consultation

Concerns about tightness of deadline for NHS services inquiry draft Terms of Reference consultation

Yesterday, the Secretariat to the APPG issued an announcement regarding a deadline for consultation on the draft Terms of Reference for the proposed APPG Inquiry into NHS Services. 

I am most concerned that a draft Terms of Reference was presented at the APPG on ME meeting on 8 October without any prior consultation with the ME community over this proposed inquiry’s scope and objectives, and that having  only yesterday announced a period of wider consultation on this document that the deadline for comments/responses has been set for just ten days away (14 November).

Yesterday’s announcement by the Secretariat can be read here

A PDF and text version of the draft Terms of Reference can be read here

The next meeting of the APPG on ME will possibly take place in early December.

Today, I have sent the following email to the Secretariat of the APPG on ME, CCd to Dr Des Turner, Chair APPG.  I have forwarded a copy to Paul Davis, for RiME’s information:

 

From: Suzy Chapman
To: Heather Walker Heather.Walker@afme.org.uk 
Cc: Dr Des Turner turnerd@parliament.uk; Dr Charles Shepherd charles.c.shepherd@btinternet.com;
Tony Britton tbritton02@yahoo.com; Sir Peter Spencer peter.spencer@afme.org.uk

Sent: Wednesday, November 05, 2008 12:04 PM
Subject: Re: APPG Inquiry into NHS Services: deadline for comments on Terms of Reference

Re: APPG Inquiry into NHS Services: deadline for comments on Terms of Reference

Dear Ms Walker,

As I am currently unable to attend meetings of the APPG on ME in person, due to carer and business commitments, I rely on the Minutes of APPG meetings.

The Minutes for the October meeting have yet to be published. I therefore refer to the unofficial summary of the 8 October meeting, compiled by Dr Charles Shepherd and published by the MEA on 10 October, and on the reports of individuals who did attend this meeting.

In his summary of 10 October, Dr Shepherd had reported:

“This document [draft Terms of Reference for NHS services inquiry] was circulated to the meeting and it was agreed to accept this in principle subject to minor amendments..”

There was no reference in Dr Shepherd’s summary to there being any wider consultation on the draft Terms of Reference envisaged beyond the APPG meeting that had just taken place, nor any indication of a timescale for any wider consultation with the ME community nor any information about to whom and through what means comments/responses should be submitted.

However, in the official Secretariat notice published yesterday (4 November), by both the MEA and AfME, it states:

“The deadline for comments on the draft terms of reference for the APPG Inquiry into English NHS service provision is Friday 14 November 2008.”

and:

“A number of those present welcomed the Inquiry and the meeting agreed to accept the draft terms of reference in principle subject to minor amendments. The Chair, Dr Des Turner, said that any minor amendments should be sent to the Secretariat by mid November – a date now confirmed as the 14th.”

I have a number of concerns:

I am given to understand that at the APPG meeting the draft Terms of Reference were agreed, subject to post amendment, by Dr Charles Shepherd and Sir Peter Spencer; that Sir Peter Spencer is reported as having expressed a wish to produce some written amendments in the days following the meeting.

But it would appear that a decision has subsequently been made to open up the consultation to the wider ME community and interested parties beyond those present at the APPG meeting on 8 October and beyond any minor amendments resulting out of discussion at that meeting and resulting from Sir Peter Spencer’s further scrutiny of the document.

I am concerned, firstly, that since the announcement of this decision was published only yesterday (4 November) that there is only a ten day period in which comments/responses can be tendered.

1] I do not consider ten days to be an adequate period of notice for the ME community’s consideration of this draft Terms of Reference.

2] It is by no means clear what is meant by “minor” amendments and this needs clarification, otherwise it is likely that the ME community will consider that the Secretariat and/or Dr Turner are seeking to restrict the scope of this “consultation”.

3] The announcement issued yesterday states:

“Further information will be posted as the processes, procedures and resourcing are finalised.”

How can the draft Terms of Reference be adequately considered by the ME community when many of the processes and procedures through which the inquiry would fulfil its aims have yet to be defined?

4] Mindful of the situation which arose in late 2005 around the Terms of Reference for the “Gibson Inquiry” and the concerns, then, over tight time schedules, it is very disappointing that the Secretariat has not negotiated with Dr Turner, on behalf of the wider ME community, for a more reasonable time-frame for comment and discussion of this document.

A ten day period in which to tender comments/responses on “minor” amendments will be seen as a tokenistic gesture and little more than a nod in the direction of “consultation”.

5] I consider that the official minute of the APPG on ME meeting on 8 October should be published as soon as possible and not left until a couple of weeks or less before the next meeting of the APPG, proposed for December.

Sincerely,

Suzy Chapman

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