Community health councils are in rebellion over the appointment of a new director for their national association in moves that could disrupt the patient watchdog movement's conference.

The revolt, centred on CHCs in the North West and South West regions, is focused on the alleged lack of opportunities for member bodies to get involved in the appointment.

Chester and Ellesmere Port CHC chair Kath Stephenson this week objected to the 'very tight schedule imposed' to replace Toby Harris as director of the Association of CHCs for England and Wales.

An emergency motion to force the issue is expected to be submitted to the ACHCEW annual conference in July.

The closing date for applications for the job, which pays up to pounds40,000 a year, is 8 July. An appointments panel will shortlist candidates by 16 July, with interviews due to take place on 27 July.

But in a letter to ACHCEW chair Jennifer Elliott, Ms Stephenson says the wider CHC movement should be allowed to debate the director's post in the context of the changed NHS at the conference.

Both Ms Elliott and Mr Harris are standing by the timetable, arguing it is important to appoint a director quickly. Mr Harris, who has promised to stay in post 'to ensure a smooth handover', will be paid until December.

But Ms Stephenson says in her letter that changes to the NHS should lead to 'fundamental questioning of the role of ACHCEW and its relationship to CHCs'.

'The role and responsibilities of the chief executive must be part of this,' she says. Ms Stephenson adds that people in the CHC movement will feel they are being 'bounced'.

Delegates to a Society of CHC Staffs conference earlier this year discussed whether CHCs might get better services if they switched their ACHCEW pounds1,500 annual subscription to the society.

Chair Chris Sweeney said: 'There has been disenchantment among CHC staff with some aspects of ACHCEW. Many staff believe this is an opportunity which should not be missed to re-evaluate the role of the director.'

Ms Elliott, who is standing down at the conference, told HSJ that she was satisfied proper mechanisms were in place to ensure that the CHC movement had a say.

The report of a working party on accountability would be discussed at the conference and there would be opportunities to alter the 'draft' director's job description.

Mr Harris said the job description had been revised in the light of recommendations from the working party and was subject to approval by ACHCEW's standing committee.

The vast majority of CHCs surveyed over the last year were very satisfied with the services they received from ACHCEW, he said.