I write as a relatively new member of North West Herts CHC, one cited for putting cosy relationships with health authorities before their duty to represent the public's interests.

The key criticism was that, whereas South West Herts CHC referred the HA's plans to the secretary of state, our CHC failed to 'stick our necks out'.

My introduction to the CHC was the meeting where the final response to the HA consultation document was agreed. The CHC made a principled response and avoided taking the easy option. It had to balance the popular demands of highly publicised, well-organised local activists against the needs of the less vociferous, less socially privileged communities, which the CHC believed would gain better access to healthcare from the HA's proposals.

The CHC saw two main risks to the popular option: that eventually specialist services would be available in neither hospital, and that cuts would continue to be made in both general hospitals, while all the other community-based hospitals and units in the surrounding towns would continue to decline.

The CHC recognised concerns about the proposal's financial basis, and particularly about the private finance initiative, but also recognised that this was a political policy supported by both main political parties about which little could be done. The CHC wanted guarantees that a local network of care should be developed and maintained.

The suggestion that the CHC has failed in its duty to represent the public interest and taken the easy path is offensive. What attracted me to this CHC was precisely the opposite.

Mary Porter


North West Herts CHC