The function of independent advocacy is an important one for all services. Voluntary organisations which bring people together and help to take up the cases of individuals who have received poor treatment can also advocate collectively, so that services can improve their practices for people generally.

The NHS plan emphasises patient advocacy and then places the voluntary sector in the private sector.

Patients will serve on a number of new panels (to 'ensure' elderly people's services, or to 'modernise' locally). But where are the collective representations of local community views? Consultation with communities is rather more than 'consumer feedback'. The private sector exists to make profits, the voluntary sector exists to put people first. The 'New NHS' needs, and belongs to, the public.

John Nicholson Chief executive UK Public Health Association