Published Thu, 2011-01-13 16:44; updated 2 years ago.

The problems of local involvement networks (LINks) are by no means confined to Staffordshire, according to a witness at the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry.

Witness Mrs Jackie Owen took over the responsibility as host for Staffordshire LINk when Staffordshire University lost the contract for hosting the organization which is intended to work with individuals and community groups to improve healthcare.

Inquiry chairman Mr Robert Francis QC asked her: "Do you have a sense of whether the problems that arose in Stafford with regard to the setting up of a LINk and the lack of confidence that the public clearly had developed in it is something that's unique to Staffordshire, or is it something that has been experienced elsewhere?”

"No, no, I would say it is very much not unique to Staffordshire," said Mrs Owen. "I think Staffordshire just hit the headlines first with it.

"When I go to regional meetings  and have discussion with other LINks, similar sorts of problems are arising now in LINks that have been quite well-established, you know, where there are disagreements about how things should be done.

"It's not unique at all. And certainly when I talk to those other LINks that I used as models, they had  faced similar sorts of difficulties in the first instance.

"It's just that they were able to get beyond them and move on from them, whereas Staffordshire weren't. So it's not unique at all.”

Mr Francis asked: "And is there any relationship, therefore, between the presence or absence of public confidence in LINks and the type of structure, or is it more to do with what issues arise in a particular area?"

Mrs Owen replied: "I think it is the issues. I think with Staffordshire the whole - Stafford Hospital was the significant issue here and that was the - I think overriding feature that meant that the LINk just couldn't get itself together and move on.

"Whereas I think other LINks didn't have the sort of Stafford Hospital situation, so were able to work through their difficulties and their issues and move on from, whereas Staffordshire wasn't able to do that."