January 11, 2002

For immediate release

Senior Labour MP puts the bite back into

Health Watchdog

David Hinchliffe, Labour Chair of the Health Select Committee has followed through with his plan to introduce an amendment to the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Bill at report stage (Tuesday 15th January). Controversially, the Bill sets out the abolition of Community Health Councils: local NHS Watchdogs that have been in place for over 27 years. It is anticipated that the amendment will provide a focus for all those who are concerned that the new patient involvement and representation structures set out by the government are too fragmented, lacking a local community overview and an inadequate replacement for CHCs.

David Hinchliffe, commented:

‘As they stand the governments’ proposals are simply too fragmented and confusing. Patients need to be clear about who to turn to if they have a problem with the local health service and they need to be confident that they will be able to access independent advice and support when they need it.

‘We also need to ensure that the public retains a powerful voice in the health service at local health economy level. Without an independent, community-led body providing an overview of local service provision there is a real danger that the public’s voice will be weakened.

‘This is a compromise amendment that will help the government to deliver its objective of ensuring that patients have greater influence in the management and development of NHS services. Hazel Blears, the Minister responsible on this issue has demonstrated a considerable willingness to listen. I continue to be hopeful that constructive dialogue will bear fruit.’


Peter Walsh, Director of the Association of Community Health Councils said:

‘We are very encouraged by David Hinchliffe’s amendment. It provides a way forward on this issue that should address many of the major concerns about the new patient representation structures.

‘Clearly the feeling across the health community at present is that if the abolition of CHCs goes ahead, the public will lose the voice of the one effective and experienced Watchdog that they have within the NHS. It would be a tragedy if that were allowed to happen, without an adequate replacement being put in their place.

‘Recent health scandals have lead to a real crisis of confidence in the NHS. If this problem is to be addressed we need to ensure that the new patient and public representation structures genuinely enjoy public confidence. It is difficult to see this happening unless there is greater political consensus about the nature of those structures. David Hinchliffe’s amendment represents a serious attempt to avoid a polarised party political debate on this issue.’


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