Published: 07/04/2005, Volume II5, No. 5949 Page 20

Christine Allen, Penny Morris, former community health council joint chief officers, Winchester

In your interview with Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health chief executive Steve Lowden (pages 1819, 24 February), he claims CHCs had an annual budget of£64m. In fact it is well documented that before their abolition was announced they had an annual budget of£23m.

In comparison with the current forums, CHCs filled roles now managed by the new overview and scrutiny committees. A majority provided a public complaints service as well.

Our CHC certainly provided open-ended and comprehensive support to complainants, although limited resources meant we relied on the dedication of staff and much unpaid overtime.

This work has now been taken over by the new Independent Complaints Advisory Service. The funding of ICAS and the overview and scrutiny committees is over and above the funding for Mr Lowden's CPPIH.

Perhaps he would appreciate why CHCS were not uniformly 'great' if he realised that they sometimes struggled to do all this on a budget of just£23m.

We also question the decision to abolish CHCs and start from scratch, rather than building on their established strengths, expertise and experience.

The vast amount of money mentioned (which does not include the considerable set-up costs of the commission, ICAS and the overview and scrutiny committees) could have been used to radically reform and resource CHCs.

This decision, which involved no consultation, resulted in a loss of goodwill in the community, and in CHC members past and present. It contributed to the difficulties patients' forums are now facingfrom our own local knowledge recruitment problems are being underplayed in the statistics released by the CPPIH.

It is no surprise to hear that patients' forums are to be reduced in number so that they are based on primary care trusts and given a more focused remit to monitor NHS services.

They seem to being moved back towards the CHC model.

There is a danger of a cover-up of unnecessary and monumental waste of public money associated with the new arrangements.

Unless this is acknowledged, there is a danger that no lessons are learned and yet more money is wasted in future reorganisations.