Published: 10/01/2001, Volume 112, No. 5787 Page 10

Ministers could accept the reintroduction of patient councils when the NHS Reform Bill has its third reading, according to Commons health select committee chair David Hinchliffe.

As it stands, the legislation would see existing community health councils scrapped and replaced by a new system which has been criticised by both opposition and Labour backbench MPs for being fragmentary.

But Mr Hinchliffe told HSJ he was hopeful that the government would accept his amendment to secure the concept of the councils, defined as groupings of patient forums covering a local health economy. He said they would provide an 'overview' currently lacking in the government proposals. 'I have been in discussions with [junior health minister] Hazel Blears. . .

She is someone who has genuinely listened to the concerns.

'The councils are important because they provide an overall understanding of what is going on. When patients raise concerns it is not usually about one element of treatment. It runs from community to primary care to secondary and tertiary care.'

Director of the Association of Community Health Councils in England and Wales Peter Walsh said: 'It would not take much of a shift in the government's position to accept this amendment as a sensible improvement which is consistent with the rest of the proposals.'