The Association provides training for local LINKs and we have a number of experienced trainers who are willing to run seminars on these issues. If you want us to run training for you please get in touch.

Powers of Local Involvement Networks

LINks can go into most types of health and social care premises to observe the nature and quality of services.

Government has given a duty to service providers and commissioners to allow authorised LINk representatives to enter and view premises they own or control. Each LINK has to decide who to authorise to visit, and all visitors have to have a Criminal Record check.

The law is contained in the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 and the Local Involvement Networks (Duty of Services-Providers to Allow Entry) Regulations 2008. There is a good explanation of how this operates in the Code of Conduct relating to Local Involvement Networks’ visits to enter and view services, including stuff about how these rights can be exercised in respect of private service providers, and about what premises the right applies to..

There is no requirement to give institutions notice of a visit, but there is no right to enter ” if the presence of an authorised representative on those premises, or those parts of premises, would compromise—

  1. the effective provision of care services, or
  2. the privacy or dignity of any person;”.

So in practice LINKs have to negotiate when they will visit. And there is nothing to stop LINKs visiting the places excluded from this duty, such as people’s own homes, if they are invited by the people concerned.

Reports

Normally the LINK will produce a report about the visit. This report should offer a balanced assessment of the service and offer recommendations for improvement, where appropriate. The findings should be sent to the provider (both the managers and the staff directly involved) to check for factual accuracy and consider recommendations. It can then be used to inform the local community about the services provided, with their good and bad points and any proposals for improvement. If appropriate the findings could be “referred” to a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. A report is subject to the normal rules about defamation, but a LINK would have qualified priviledge. That means that you can criticise named individuals so long as you can establish the truth of your assertions or you are fairly reporting allegations which, if true, are in the public interest to be published.

Images

It isn’t clear whether the right to “enter and view” extends to the taking of photographs or video, but both can be very useful in some situations. For example to say that you saw something that was dirty could cover a wide range of situations. A picture could make the meaning much clearer. Both in written reports and pictures the Human Rights Act, privacy and confidentiality need to be borne in mind. “The European Commission has found that the collection of medical data and the maintenance of medical records fall within the sphere of private life protected by Article 8 of the Convention. This would, therefore, apply to personal medical information including information which identifies a patient such as a photograph. The European Court has recognised that respecting medical confidentiality is a ‘vital principle’ crucial to privacy and to confidence in the medical profession and in health services in general.” These considerations only apply to publication of images of identifiable people, or data about them. They don’t apply to pictures of facilities.

“There are no legal restrictions on photography in a public place, and there is no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place.” (Shahid Malik MP) So there is nothing in law to stop anyone taking pictures from a public place, unless this is an unreasonable invasion of privacy, such as using a telephoto lens to see into someone’s bathroom, or amounts to harrassment. A public place does not include places like hospitals or local authority premises. They are private places to which the public is admitted. Occupiers of property can impose any conditions they like on people who are allowed to enter their property. Some service providers will have a policy of not allowing photography on the premises without permission. So it will generally be advisable to seek agreement from the institution about the use of images, and if you want to use images of people, other than those taken in a public place, to get their written consent for publication.

There is more detailed guidance about the law in the UK Photographers Rights Guide v2

Police U-turn on photographers and anti-terror laws Dec 2009

Small-screen saviours 2012

Martha Payne’s inspiring blog about her school dinners, NeverSeconds

Other sources of information:

Before deciding whether to enter and view facilities it is a good idea to find out what you can about the services involved. There is a huge amount of infomation about health and social care services available. Much of it is statistical, but these are places where you may find stories about people’s individual experiences:

Participative observation – interview with the late Prof Peter Townsend about his early life as a researcher, which is full of insight about visiting institutions, about interviewing people, and about finding out what is really going on.

Official Support for LINKs

The patient and public engagement support programme 2009–10

Official guidance

What do you think?

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