Community Health Council

Community Health Councils were established in 1974 to provide a voice for patients and the public in the National Health Service (NHS) in England and Wales.

They were abolished in 2003 in England as part of the NHS Plan announced in July 2000. Unlike the other proposals in the Plan there was no preceding discussion about this move, nor any clear explanation for this decision, which aroused considerable unhappiness amongst the staff and members. In England a new structure, Patient and Public Involvement Forums, was established in 2003.

Up until 2010 there were 19 CHCs in Wales. However, as a result of the passing by the Welsh Assembly Government of the Community Health Councils (Constitution, Membership and Procedures)(Wales) Regulations 2010, these were replaced by 8 CHCs. These covered larger geographical areas, and were largely co-terminus with the smaller number of Health Boards which had been established to replace most NHS Trusts in Wales. The Community Health Councils (CHC)in Wales work to enhance and improve the quality of your local health service. They are the patients statutory and independent voice in health services provided throughout Wales.

Members are drawn equally from 3 sources; Local Authority representatives, nominees from local Third Sector bodies and members appointed by the Minister in response to advert. CHCs also have the right to co-opt non-voting members to the Council.

The key function of the CHC is to represent the interests of the public in the health service in their district. Each CHC currently monitors and evaluates from the patient's viewpoint the effectiveness of NHS services provided by all NHS establishments, including hospitals, GPs, pharmacies, opticians, care homes, dentists, etc. Every autumn, the Hospital Patient Environment (HPE) visits take place, this is where all the CHCs collect data on their local district general and a selection of community hospitals and report on their finding. A report is produced on these findings by the Board of Community Health Councils and sent to the Welsh Assembly Government. The Board of Community Health Councils in Wales is the National body for all CHCs in Wales. The CHCs also provide a free, independent and confidential Advocacy Service to patients who seek advice and support in the process of pursuing a complaint against the NHS.

At the time of the launch of the new CHCs in 2010, the then Health Minister for Wales, Edwina Hart, indicated that they would be reviewed after two years, to evaluate how they were working. In February 2012 the current Minister for Health and Social Services at the Welsh Government, Mrs Lesley Griffiths, formally announced the Terms of Reference for this review, which will be led by Professor Marcus Longley, Director of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care and is intended to report back to the Minister in June 2012.

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