Published: 16/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5923 Page 21

The Healthskills consultancy report described by William Little clearly indicates there are some obstacles to the effectiveness of overview and scrutiny committees (news, pages 8-9, 19 August).

Overview and scrutiny provides time and space to question whether services and policies meet the needs of local communities.

The committee members, as local councillors who have been democratically elected, can provide information on local needs and local opinion. The committee can act as a 'critical friend' to help the local NHS.

It is also a chance to work with local authorities, especially in the areas of work that effect 'health' in its true meaning. For example, a review on smoking cessation could cover areas within the remit of both health and local government.

Although individual committee members may occasionally be 'not up to understanding the strategic agenda', the value of councillors in coming from diverse backgrounds and being close to their community should be respected: the key is partnership.

Hannah Lowry Outpatients manager Manchester Royal Eye Hospital