The Association of Community Health Councils of England and Wales has received a letter from junior health minister Hazel Blears - a former CHC chair - highlighting the need for 'inclusive'debate on patient representation.'I acknowledge how unsettling the past 10 months have been. . .'the letter says.Insiders suggest the government has substituted the softer term 'reform or replace'for 'abolition'in discussions about CHCs.

Northern Ireland health minister Bairbre de Brun has condemned 'disgraceful scenes'at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Saturday, where staff in the accident and emergency department were attacked and had their lives threatened by alleged loyalist paramilitaries.Trust medical director Dr Ian Carson emphasised that the hospital's staff were drawn from 'all sections of the community'.

The EU has agreed to pilot schemes allowing advertising of some prescription medicines directly to the public.Relaxation of the rules will allow advertising of products to treat asthma, diabetes and AIDS.The Consumers'Association has warned that increased marketing of prescription products would send the NHS drugs bill 'sky-high'.

Unison and the National Nursing Council in Ireland have asked the the Irish prime minister to intervene over NHS plans to remove funding from overseas students training as nurses in England.From 1 December, Irish students in England will no longer receive a£5,000 bursary.

The number of prescriptions for anti-psychotic drugs for people aged over 60 rose by 70 per cent between 1999 and 2000 to 428,800, according to Liberal Democrat MP Paul Burstow.'With a chronic shortage of staff to support older people with dementia and other mental health problems, care homes are turning to a chemical cocktail. . . to keep people quiet.'