In JUNE the Welsh Government issued its consultation document entitled “Services fit for the future”.

It sets out a number of proposals with the aim of strengthening the voice of citizens in health and social care.

All well and good you may think.

However, one proposal is causing widespread concern. The consultation proposes to abolish Community Health Councils in their current form and establish a new body based in some respects on the Scottish Health Council.

This All-Wales body would work across health and social care.

Community Health Councils represent the public’s interest in the way services are planned and provided.

There are seven Community Health Councils in Wales, one in each of the local health board areas and responsible to the same local populations.

Their role is to listen to what individuals and the community have to say about health services with regard to quality, quantity, access to and appropriateness of the services provided for them.

They then act as the public’s voice in letting managers of health services know what people want and how things can be improved.

In my view, abolishing Community Health Councils and setting up an All-Wales body does not provide an effective, independent voice for patients.

It breaks the link between local people having a say over the services provided by their local health board.

My concerns are in no way allayed by the example set by the Scottish Health Council which the Welsh Government seems to think is the model we should follow.

The Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament voiced its concerns earlier this year.

The committee stated they were clear that the Scottish Health Council did not in its current guise present itself as a body independent of Government.

It went on to say the SHCs function was not clear to the public or to health boards.

They appeared to lack any formal role or direct engagement with patients and the public who may be impacted by proposed service changes.

Indeed, one representative of the Scottish Health Council when asked about local protests against service changes told the committee it was not their role to campaign on behalf of local groups.

No wonder the committee concluded the SHC was a “toothless hamster”.

I would urge as many people as possible to respond to this consultation and to insist we retain Community Health Councils with increased powers and responsibilities.