January 14th, 2002

For immediate release

Patients’ organisations call on MPs to support local health Watchdog

The Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales (ACHCEW) has added its voice to the call from patient organisations for Labour MPs to support David Hinchliffe’s amendment to the NHS Reform and Health Care Professions Bill on 15th January. This call has also been supported by, among others, the National Pensioners Convention, Action for the Victims of Medical Accidents (AVMA), Age Concern, The NHS Support Federation and the Patients Association (for quotes see below).

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

‘Our own preference would have been for reformed Community Health Councils, but 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.

‘The proposed Patients’ Councils could provide the kind of local overview so clearly lacking from the government’s proposals. It could also act as a visible point of contact for the local community enabling patients and the public to access the support they need when they need it.’

Arnold Simanowitz, Director of AVMA said:

‘If CHCs are abolished it is essential that there is some form of local community led organisation, with teeth to protect patients rights and assist with patients’ complaints. The Patients’ Council could be such an organisation.’

Gordon Lishman, Director-General of Age Concern commented:

‘Age Concern supports the call for the concept of Patients’ Councils to be reinstated. We believe that Patients’ Forums have the potential to offer useful scrutiny of the full range of health services but that they will need to work in a co-ordinated and collaborative way to be most effective and the establishment of Patients’ Councils may provide this.’

‘We are also concerned that the new proposals are very complex and that one advantage of CHCs is that they are accessible, often on the high street. We believe that without an independent and accessible referring point, older people may find it difficult to get the support they need.’

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. The amendment proposes the introduction of Patients Councils that would provide: a powerful voice for patients and the public at local health economy level; a visible, community based, one-stop-shop point of contact for the local community, and a means of simplifying the new system by pulling together all the disparate elements of the government’s proposals.



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

email: murray.benham@achcew.org.uk

website: www.achcew.org.uk