Hilda Harvey's letter (3 December) shows a level of prejudice and bias that does little to instil confidence in her independence as a complaints convenor.

The role of community health council staff has never been to impose their views on complainants, rather to help them understand how the system operates. I spend much time trying to reassure complainants that convenors can be impartial and that one of the major roles of non-executive directors is scrutinising the services delivered by the trust or health authority they oversee.

If chief officers are acting improperly, their conduct should be raised with their chair and the NHS Executive; they should not be labelled in HSJ without a shred of evidence.

Richard Mason

Chief officer

Chichester CHC

...but what matters is what people believe

Having read Hilda Harvey's rather scathing letter, we want to defend ourselves and the CHC's role in the complaints mechanism.

CHC staff do not 'peddle their own ideas'. On the contrary, we never pass on our own views, either of the complaint or the system.

However, we are entitled to have a view on the system we have to work with. We uphold our view (letters, 5 November) that the complainants' only access to truly independent scrutiny is via the ombudsman.

Complainants do get frustrated at the present complaints mechanism, and it is difficult to reassure them that their GP won't strike them from their list or that they won't be treated any differently at the hospital if they complain. We recognise that the convenor's role is impartial, but do complainants? It is the complainants' perception that is important.

Wendy Goodwin

Tracy Steward

Salford CHC