Published: 15/07/2004, Volume II4, No. 5914 Page 20 21

As a member of the NHS Alliance and the NHS Confederation, I was unable to establish in Dr Michael Dixon's article (Speak out, page 23, 17 June) whether he was speaking on my behalf and with the support of his members, board and chief executive, none of whom were mentioned.

I am a member of the NHS Confederation council and also a trustee.Michael is neither, so I found it surprising that he makes such 'knowledgeable' comments without having contributed to the decision about becoming an employers' organisation.

Had Michael attended the confederation's conference last month he would have met many committed and highly motivated NHS employees, all of whom fully understand the political context in which we work.

Health secretary John Reid, who attended the conference, was challenged about many of the policy issues affecting delivery of service in the NHS. There was no evidence of 'opting for the quieter life' that Michael suggests.

He comments that the NHS Alliance is apolitical: is he implying that the confederation is not so? If so, I suspect many colleague chairs and chief executive members of the confederation will have been somewhat surprised by it.

Working in partnership should reflect a sharing of roles, ideas and responsibilities. The confederation is committed to develop further its skills as an employer organisation in partnership with government.

The confederation has an excellent track record over the past three years in relation to the positive outcome from the general medical services contract negotiations.

Good luck to the alliance with its relaunch - there is still much to be done in the NHS. All experience shows that it is better to keep partners alongside you than try to discredit them.

Tony Hughes Trustee NHS Confederation