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What is a Community Health Council? What does it do?

Community Health Councils (CHC) are statutory bodies - in England and Wales - representing the interests of people in their districts in the health service.

Typically, CHCs provide information and advice about the health service for people who may have experienced problems with local health services. They provide assistance to people and sometimes act as advocates.

They also provide an opportunity for local people to influence health services and to ensure that services meet local people's needs and welcome views, ideas and suggestions or concerns from the public.

CHCs have rights established by Parliament to inspect health service premises, to information about health services and to be consulted by health authorities on major changes to health services.

The telephone number for your local CHC can be found in the telephone book.

How does the Government decide who gets what when it allocates NHS funds?

The Government decides the overall level of funding for the NHS (the figure for the UK allocated by the Government for 1989/99 is in the region of 44.5 billion). Currently most of this money is then allocated to Health Authorities and some GPs who decide how it should be spent to meet the health needs of their local population.

How do I make a complaint about the health service?

To make a complaint you should first formally complain to your local provider of the service. They will try to resolve the complaint to your satisfaction as quickly as possible.

If this is unsatisfactory, you should then seek a review of your complaint by a convener (this is normally a non-executive director of the Trust or Health Authority concerned) who will be advised by an independent lay person. If the convener decides that more should be done to satisfy you, he or she may either establish an independent panel to consider your complaint or ask the service provider to take further action.

If you are still dissatisfied you may ask the Health Service Commissioner (Ombudsman) to investigate your case. The Ombudsman is completely independent of the NHS and of Government and can consider complaints about most aspects of NHS services and treatment. However, he is not obliged to investigate every complaint put to him.

You local Community Health Council and the Health Information Service can provide additional information on complaints procedures.

Why don't I get to see my own GP out-of-hours?

Although GPs are required to provide an out of hours service for their patients, they cannot be on call 24 hours of every day. The 'out of hours' service is therefore provided either by GPs in a practice taking it in turns to be 'on call', GPs in a group of practices taking it in turns or by the use of a deputising service. Deputising services can only use fully qualified doctors. It is always a decision of the doctor whether a home visit is necessary.

If you have a question to ask about your NHS, then email faq@nhs50.nhs.uk, and we'll post the ones most frequently asked.

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