Legal

About ACHCEW

ACHCEW and all English CHCs were Abolished by the Government on 1st December 2003

WHAT WAS ACHCEW ?

The Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales (ACHCEW) was set up in 1977 to provide a forum for member Community Health Councils (CHCs), to provide information and advisory services to CHCs and to represent the user of health services at a national level. CHCs were not obliged to be members of ACHCEW but most were.

Legal Position

ACHCEW was established in 1977 under provisions in the National Health Service (Reorganisation) Act 1977 and the relevant statutory instrument is SI 1977 874 as amended by SI 1977 1204.

ACHCEW's constitution stated that its purpose wass:

(a) To provide a forum for the exchange of views and for the discussion of matters of common concern to member Councils, and when appropriate to express views on National Health Service matters to Ministers, Government Departments or other bodies, and to publicise such views.

(b) To provide information and advisory services reasonably required by Community Health Councils to assist them in the performance of their functions.

(c) To promote the role, work and activities of Community Health Councils to Ministers, Government Departments and other bodies and to the public at large.

(d) To perform such other functions as may be necessary or desirable in the interest of Community Health Councils.

Funding

ACHCEW was made up of individual CHCs which paid an annual subscription based on their own annual budgets. At the time of Abolition 198 (out of 204) CHCs belonged to ACHCEW. Additional grants from the Department of Health for running legal and training services supplemented ACHCEWs income.

Structure

The policy of the Association was determined by an Annual General Meeting of all member CHCs. Between AGMs the business of the Association is conducted by a Standing Committee which had 3 representatives from each of the English Regions and three from Wales and four honorary officers (Chair, two Vice-Chairs and Treasurer). The Standing Committee met six times each year.

Role

Although one of ACHCEWs main tasks was to channel the views of CHCs to the Secretary of State for Health, CHCs frequently made direct representations to the Department of Health. This autonomy of CHCs and the accountability of ACHCEW were the two most important features of the Associations relationship with its membership.

A number of functions were carried out within the ACHCEW office. These were:

(a) Providing an information service to member CHCs. The information service maintained a computerised database of information: reports, surveys, minutes, annual reports and press releases from CHCs, together with publications and journals from a wide variety of sources whose contents were of relevance to CHCs. CHCs made considerable use of this service and enquiries ran at around 2,000 per year. The Association was also able to give advice and information on legislation and departmental guidance in the health policy field.

(b) CHC Listings were produced six times a year and sent to CHC offices. It contained listings of new CHC reports, recent publications and forthcoming events. It also provided space for CHCs to request information from other CHCs.

(c) ACHCEW also issued Health Perspectives and briefing documents on a range of policy and legal issues. These were primarily for the information of member CHCs but also circulated more widely to raise public awareness of the work done by CHCs.

(d) ACHCEW's legal service provided advice to CHCs in response to specific enquiries. In the year 2000 it dealt with over 900 requests for legal advice with an average response time of just one day. In conjunction with ACHCEW's training department, legal training and seminars have been provided on human rights issues in the health service. Work was also carried out on key legal issues of relevance to CHCs, patients and the public, such as patient confidentiality, data protection and access to information. The legal team also produced briefing material and case law updates for CHCs.

(e) ACHCEW also organised a substantial range of training events for CHC members and staff. The Training Department offered 80 training days in 20 locations across England and Wales. 900 CHC members attended training on a wide range of topics from Mental Health issues to Media Skills.

(f) Maintaining a high public profile. The Association was regarded as a leading commentator on health issues. We therefore serviced a high volume of press enquiries from the regional, national and specialist press. ACHCEW also conducted its own campaigning activity, in which media work performed a crucial role. As part of the press function, ACHCEW regularly produced articles, press releases and statements on key issues of relevance to CHCs, patients and the public.

(g) ACHCEW provided the secretariat for the all-party Parliamentary group on CHCs and also briefed MPs and Peers of all parties on issues of importance to CHCs.

(h) ACHCEW acted as a direct national link with the Department of Health and other branches of government, as well as with professional bodies and national voluntary organisations. The Association was represented on a range of Departmental and other committees.

(i) Responding to consultation documents from the Department of Health and other organisations.

(j) Maintaining our website, www.achcew.org.uk.

(k) Producing surveys, in conjunction with member CHCs. These included the high profile nationwide Casualty Watch.