October 22nd 2002

For immediate release

Community Health Councils raise fears

of underfunding and understaffing of new bodies

Community Health Councils (CHCs), which are soon to abolished, have raised fears that their replacement bodies, Patients’ Forums, may not be able to act as an effective local watchdog and one-stop shop. Concerns were initially raised when early indications from the Department of Health suggested that Patients’ Forums might have as few as 600 staff across the country, compared to the 700 staff who currently work in CHCs.

Peter Walsh, Director of the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales (ACHCEW), commented:

‘There are currently 700 staff in CHCs in England. The new bodies are going to have greater responsibilities than CHCs and there will be more of them, it would be disastrous if they were expected to carry out their work with fewer staff than CHCs.

‘PCT Patients’ Forums will be expected to: provide a one-stop shop for the public, at which they can raise their concerns and get general information about their rights and the local health service; deliver an independent complaints service; support lay members involved in representing their community; reach out to disadvantaged groups to make sure that their voice is heard; and ensure that there continues to be a high level of scrutiny of the health service. This is a big job. Our own analysis suggests that PCT Patients’ Forums should have 1,650 staff nationwide. This would mean that in every Primary Care Trust area you would have around 5 staff. If the government think they can get a decent system of patient representation with only 600 staff they’re living in cloud-cuckoo land.

‘Health service users need a strong, independent, local watchdog and one-stop shop. But, that’s not what they’ll get if the government try and introduce the new system on the cheap.’

CHCs are currently lobbying the government to try and ensure that the new structures have reasonable levels of funding and staffing.


For further information please contact: Murray Benham on - 020 7609 8138

email: murray.benham@achcew.org.uk

website: www.achcew.org.uk


Notes to Editors