It was reassuring to read the views of Peter Johns. Last October, as part of its development work with primary care group board members, South Cheshire health authority commissioned the three community health councils within its boundaries - Chester & Ellesmere Port, Cheshire Central and Macclesfield - to provide a 'bespoke' development programme for the six PCG lay board members.

Members of the CHCs, PCG lay members and an HA representative met to cover such topics as the role of the lay member, general medical services payments, clinical governance, team building and public participation. The lay members had identified all the areas for development and learning at their initial introductory session.

The feedback on the CHC development programme was extremely positive. The group has decided to continue to meet regularly to consider ad hoc development needs, act as a peer support forum and to review the developing role of the lay member as PCGs mature. The HA also aims to work with the lay member group as part of the evaluation process for new PCG developments.

The CHCs' role in this work with the lay members was crucial. They were able to offer a patient-focused, community-orientated, objective and realistic view of the world, which it is hoped the six lay members have taken back to their respective PCGs.

Clare Parker

Primary care and services development team

South Cheshire HA