Community health councils are planning to seek legal advice about moves by trusts to change their legal powers over NHS premises.

Under Section 5 of the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, trusts are responsible for either owning and managing hospitals or - a clause introduced to cover PFI buildings - providing and managing hospitals.

But according to the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales, more and more trusts are opting for the latter clause on all properties.

It argues this will effectively give trusts carte blanche to sell property or use it for something other than providing NHS care, without consultation.

But a spokesperson for the NHS Executive's private finance unit insisted trusts will still be required to consult CHCs over any substantial change of use, even if they are merely 'providing' a facility.

Marion Chester, ACHCEW legal officer, said: 'We have been telling our members not to agree to across the board changes, as we don't know what trusts are going to do in the future.'

ACHCEW is now planning to take advice from counsel.