Letters

Once again I am delighted to see HSJ taking an active interest in the events taking place in the NHS in Wales, in particular your report about the shake-up of Welsh community health councils (news, page 4,5 August). But the article contains some inaccuracies which I want to correct, in particular that the National Assembly for Wales is 'dragging its feet over the issue'. It is not.

I feel it important to re-state my personal support for the work of CHCs and the valuable contribution they make to the operation and delivery of health services. I have received a positive response from all parts of Wales to my announcement about the development of CHCs, which will provide them with an enhanced strategic role and clearer direction through the federation structure.

The NHS in Wales is an evolving organisation and CHCs cannot stand alone against the tide of change. There was clear support from responses to an earlier consultation exercise that their roles and structures needed to be redesigned to bring them into line with the new NHS landscape. In particular that they should strengthen their strategic influence so that the public interest is better represented in the planning and commissioning of health services. I am determined that local people should have a voice in shaping the services they and their families rely upon and this new approach will allow CHCs to provide a collective voice at health and trust level to ensure that local voices are heard and heeded.

You refer to 'delays' in implementing the federation structure. From the time I made my announcement on 16 March about the future of CHCs in Wales, I made it clear that I wanted CHC representatives to be included in working up the new arrangements and asked each federation to come forward with proposals to implement the federation structure in their areas. This should not be seen as slow progress, but rather a necessary and important process involving key stakeholders in planning for the future.

The health and social services secretary, Jane Hutt, a former CHC member herself, will meet federation representatives shortly to review process, agree a timescale to implement arrangements and to look at ways to further strengthen the role of CHCs in Wales.

One thing is clear: the federation structure I announced is flexible enough to allow differences in implementation across Wales. The important thing is that the new structures should fit local needs and empower CHCs to exert more influence at strategic levels throughout the NHS in Wales.

Alun Michael

First secretary

National Assembly for Wales