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'How Community Health Councils Work'

Community Health Councils (CHCs) were set up as part of the major reorganisation of the NHS in 1974 and were charged with the duty of representing the local community's interest in the health service. CHCs are central to patient empowerment, providing a channel for representation, consultation and complaint, and an important source of information for the public.

There are over 200 CHCs in England and Wales. The equivalent in Scotland are called Local Health Councils and in Northern Ireland they are called Health and Social Services Councils.

A Community Health Council is made up of between 18 and 30 lay members with a chairman, a chief officer and a varying number of other staff. The chief officer is a paid employee of the National Health Service. Half the membership is made up of people appointed by the local authority (though they need not be councillors), one third are appointed by voluntary organisations, and one sixth by the NHS. CHCs are independent of the Health Authorities/Boards and NHS Trusts which they monitor.

In Scotland, the Local Health Councils (LHCs) have between 15 and 20 lay members, all appointed by the Health Board. They are funded by the Scottish Office, with local Health Boards providing financial administrative services free of charge to the LHC.

CHCs or their equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland vary in their everyday activities but there are functions which are common to all:

  • visiting NHS premises.

  • consultation on the planning and development of local health services.

  • provision of information on local services.

  • monitoring the quality of local services, for example, through consumer surveys.

  • assisting with complaints

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