The Law Society is backing community health councils in their fight for survival - and warning that abolition could increase litigation costs to the NHS and patients.

Carolyn Kirby, deputy vicepresident of the Law Society and chair of the mental health and disability committee, has written to health secretary Alan Milburn to voice the society's concern that without CHCs, there would be 'no local body with sufficient independence, responsibility and power to help resolve patients' complaints'.

Ms Kirby said: 'As solicitors, we believe that the abolition of CHCs would be bad for the patients we represent and result in greater litigation and more cost to the taxpayer.'

The society said it does not believe that patient advocacy and liaison services, which the NHS plan says will be set up by each trust, would be sufficiently independent to deal with patients' concerns or complaints.

The action by the society follows the decision by the Association of CHCs for England and Wales not to take legal action against the government over its plans to abolish CHCs. The decision followed Mr Milburn's announcement that he would not provide them with the funds to do so.