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Community Health Councils/Patients Forums

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) whether structures to replace community health councils will be in place and fully operational before community health councils are abolished; [120651](2) what plans he has for the smooth transfer of responsibilities from community health councils to patients' forums. [120653]

Patients' forums are just one part of the new system for patient and public involvement being introduced to replace Community Health Councils (CHCs). Already, much of what will replace CHCs is in place—Patients' Advice and Liaison Services exist in almost all trusts, Overview and Scrutiny Committees have had the new power to scrutinise health since January 2003, independent complaints advocacy services will be available across England from 1 September 2003 and the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health (CPPIH) has been in existence since 1 January 2003. Staff support for patients' forums will be in place by 1 September 2003, and by 1 December 2003 when CHCs will be abolished, all patients' forums will be in place.Work is under way, with the CPPIH, the Association for Community Health Councils in England and Wales and CHC members and staff, to ensure the smooth transfer of responsibilities where they have not already been picked up elsewhere and to consider how best to transfer local CHC knowledge to the new patients' forums.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether members of community health councils will be (a) given an opportunity to become members of patients forums and (b) invited to form the first tranche of the new membership of patients' forums. [120652]

Recruitment to patients' forums will be conducted by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, through a process of open competition. Community Health Council members will be encouraged to apply to join patients' forums, although they will not be invited specifically to form a first tranche of members of forums.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health when the patients' forums will enter into effect. [120656]

The intention is to commence the legislation that will give effect to patients' forums on 1 September 2003. From that date, patients' forums will be established and the intention is that members will have been appointed to all forums by the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health by 1 December 2003. I refer the hon. Member to the statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) on 4 June 2003, Official Report, columns 22–23WS.