Published: 22/04/2002, Volume II4, No. 5902 Page 25

We welcome the opportunity offered by Malcolm Alexander's letter (pages 24-25, 1 April) to put the record straight on what we consider an excellent track record in establishing a new system of patient and public involvement across England.

It is unfortunate that comparisons are constantly being made between community health councils (almost 30 years old) and PPI forums (four months old).

The Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health had no shadow period, and last year was a start-up period. It is demoralising for our almost 5,000 volunteers to witness the erroneous criticism levelled at our new PPI system in which they are already actively involved.

We believe our backing through forum support organisations (FSOs) and our regional offices is cost effective. Forum members, through their FSOs, have access to computers, photocopiers, printers, faxes and telephones.

Access to our knowledgemanagement system is already being rolled out to forum members and will be available to the public later in the year. The FSO for Mr Alexander's forum, for example, now has 22 full-time staff and provides 24 hours of support per week for each of the 34 forums it supports.

We have a monitoring and performance management system to enable our nine regional centres to identify any FSO that may lag behind in the provision of administrative support to members.

Regarding the commission's budget, it is interesting to observe that Mr Alexander, who was the director of the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales, was silent on the fact the commission's resources had to be used to support the running of CHCs from April to December 2003.

For the record, over 80 per cent of the commission's overall costs are directly incurred in supporting forums and PPI.

Laura McMurtrie Chief executive Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health