9th January 2002

Embargoed until: 00.01 Thursday 10th January

Replacing Community Health Councils could cost

NHS ten times as much

Responding to the publication, in the Health Service Journal, of figures indicating that the Governments’ new patient representation structures, could cost nearly 10 times (see below) what is spent on Community Health Councils (CHCs) Peter Walsh, Director of the Association of Community Health Councils, said:

‘If you are going to spend this much on patient involvement, then you ought to make sure you get it right; but there is a widespread worry that the government is replacing an effective, independent local Watchdog, with a cumbersome, fragmented and ineffective system.

‘The question is: are the public getting value for money? Public money might better have been used to build on the 25 years worth of experience and goodwill that exists with CHCs - instead the government looks set on abolishing them.’

‘What is specifically missing from the government’s proposals is an independent,

community-led, local body that could pull together all the disparate elements of the new system, act as a powerful voice for the public in the NHS, and provide a convenient one-stop-shop for patients who need help with a complaint or want to raise an issue of concern.

‘Above all we need a system capable of enjoying public confidence. Scrutiny of the NHS should not be a political football. Our aim should be to arrive at a model that enjoys the full support of all those concerned about the future of patient and public representation.’

It is estimated that the complex range of new bodies, designed to replace CHCs could raise costs to as much as 221m in 2003-04, compared with 23m a year for CHCs.

-ends-

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

email: murray.benham@achcew.org.uk

website: www.achcew.org.uk