Embargoed until: 00.01 Tuesday October 3rd 2000
Embattled health watchdog seeks judicial review
In an effort to secure government consultation on the future of patient representation in the NHS, the Association of Community Health Councils (ACHCEW), has, on legal advice, taken the unusual step of calling on Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health, to fund a judicial review into the process which led to the abolition Community Health Councils as part of the National Plan for Health. The Association has obtained the opinion of Queen's Counsel, which finds 'good grounds', for a Judicial Review on the basis that the consultation procedure was 'legally flawed'. In such instances ACHCEW has the right to seek the Minister's financial assistance to pursue legal action.
Donna Covey Director of ACHCEW commented:
'It is now over 2 months since the government made the surprise announcement that Community Health Councils are to be abolished. In that time they have failed to respond to any of the concerns that we have raised with them regarding the need for an effective independent watchdog in the NHS. Our wish is for consultation and constructive dialogue to take place.'
'Our concern is that in abolishing CHCs in favour of the mechanisms in the National Plan, the Secretary of State is abolishing a Watchdog of proven efficacy whilst introducing a system that will be more fragmented, less independent, and ultimately far less effective.'
'We believe the public have a right to be consulted on this issue.'
Richard Gordon QC, identified a range of flaws in the consultation process, concluding that 'no lawful consultation', had occurred with ACHCEW.
ACHCEW's concerns are shared by a broad range of bodies across the health community. The decision has also attracted criticism from a range of MPs from all parties.
Donna Covey said:
'We have taken this decision extremely reluctantly. The ball is now in the Secretary of State's court. We await his response.'
For further information please contact: Murray Benham on - 020 7609 8138
Notes to Editors