It is sad that HSJ has again entered the debate about the role of community health councils in such a negative fashion ('In the rudest of health', news focus, 26 August).

A great number of CHCs are involved in innovative work which does seek to reach out to local people, to ensure the public interest is represented effectively within available resources.

In Rotherham we are: developing and broadening the base of CHC membership; working with local community and voluntary sector groups to help them develop their knowledge of NHS issues so that they are better able to be involved in consultations and other local community involvement initiatives; providing opportunities for those groups to have direct contact with key NHS decision-makers; supporting the development of user groups which can then put forward their own representatives on decision-making bodies; working with the health authority and primary care groups to help them develop better community involvement.

While the CHC has a positive working relationship with the local health community, its independence is well understood and is valued by many local groups. Where it is believed that aspects of consultation have not been handled well, the CHC has joined with local groups in voicing formal criticism. The fact that a mature relationship has been developed between the CHC and the local health community allows for such differences to be accepted, without jeopardising ongoing work in areas of mutual interest.

It is widely acknowledged within the CHC community that CHCs are no more perfect than their sister organisations (HAs; trusts and PCGs). Equally, CHCs wish to maximise the effectiveness of their contribution to the development of the NHS, and do so with relatively meagre resources. However, articles such as this do little to encourage an objective analysis of CHCs' work and therefore hinder, rather than help, the current debate about how the public interest can best be represented within the modern NHS.

Mr Pat Heath

Chief officer

Rotherham CHC

Lesley Dabell

Rotherham CHC locality liaison officer