Health Councils (CHCs), health campaigners are today celebrating a moral
victory in their campaign to ensure that there continues to be some form of
independent, local, community-led health watchdog. In a significant shift
Care Professions Bill which will mean that 315 individual Patients' Forums
across England (based at the same level as Primary Care Trusts) will be able
to take an overview of health problems in their locality, provide
independent support with complaints and act as a 'one-stop-shop' for
patients and the public (see LGCnetfor details of the parliamentary debate).
Peter Walsh, director of the Association of Community Health Councils,
'This is a moral victory. There has been a dramatic shift
by the government towards our position. The principles that CHCs stand for
are at last being accepted - a strong, integrated independent voice for
local people on health issues.
'Many organisations and groups across the health community
have supported CHCs in this campaign. They are all owed a debt of thanks.
We are particularly grateful to David Hinchliffe MP, Labour chair of the
health select committee for standing up for a local watchdog and to Hazel
Blears for listening.
'Like most people, we would have liked to have seen CHCs
reformed and strengthened. The constructive compromise of patients'
councils would also have been better than what has actually been proposed,
but this amendment represents a significant step forward. We shouldn't
underestimate, however, the amount of work that there is left to do to make
this system work, in the interests of patients and the public.'
* CHCs were established in 1974 as patient advocates within the NHS.
Over the past 26 years they have been at the forefront of ensuring that the
patients' voice is heard and their complaints listened to. Most recently,
they played a pivotal role in ensuring that Rodney Ledward was exposed, and
that the victims of Harold Shipman were supported.
Each year CHCs assist around 30,000 people with complaints.