Will anyone in the NHS Executive be brave enough to draft guidelines for the 'independent panels' which you report ministers are now encouraging? The West Surrey example (news, page 7, 27 April) underlines the urgent need for such guidelines.

The view of the public in West Surrey is already cynical. How much value is a panel which has no authority to direct any action and no means of deriving any authority?

What is the purpose of appointing independent non-executive directors to the health authority's board if their views carry so little weight with ministers that 'independent panels' are needed to advise them?

What is the purpose of asking external auditors to undertake valuefor-money and other studies if their observations might be contradicted by the findings of an informal panel?

What is the purpose of appointing community health councils to keep the operation of the health service under review and to recommend improvements, if they are to be second-guessed by short-life panels?

Can any panel have any credibility as 'independent' of the health authority when it is selected and appointed by that authority? In West Surrey's case this credibility problem is compounded by the HA appointing one-third of the members from Surrey county council, whose failings over the years have led to bed blockage and exacerbated the HA's problems.

Do the findings of the panel have any chance of being accepted by the informed public when the evidence which the members will assess is selected and assembled by persons engaged by the HA? In West Surrey the proposals for 'future health provision' have not yet been published, so voluntary organisations, staff representatives and other community bodies have no basis on which to make any contribution to the panel's deliberations.

Surely, there are better ways of approaching the modernisation of the health service.

Tom Brooks Walton-on-Thames