HL Deb 26 May 1976 vol 371 cc263-5

2.41 p.m.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend members of Community Health Councils to receive some form of training, such as, for example, magistrates receive.


My Lords, the Department issued guidance to health authorities in July 1974 on training arrangements for members of Community Health Councils. Guidance outlined the likely needs of Community Health Council members and asked Regional Health Authorities to make arrangements to meet these in consultation with Community Health Councils. The guidance also suggested that Regional Health Authorities should arrange short seminars for Community Health Council members if they wish to be assisted in this particular way.

Baroness MASHAM of ILTON

My Lords, may I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he aware that Community Health Council members have a tremendous amount to do? I think it is far more than they realised in the beginning. Is he aware that well-informed community health councillors and their secretaries may help to keep up the standards of the National Health Service and eliminate such tragic happenings as occurred at the Darlington Memorial Hospital when five unnatural deaths took place? Is he aware that at the beginning the Regional Health Authorities did organise these courses but, with the changeover of the new district councillors that has just happened, many new, green members have come on to Community Health Councils? Perhaps he may agree that further training is necessary.


My Lords, this is a continuing process. It has never been suggested that these seminars should be held for a specific period. My Department sees this as a continuing process, and I would think that the Regional Health Authorities do also, because out of the 14 Regional Health Authorities, 12 have certainly got this going and are continuing with it. This means that of the 207 Community Health Councils in the country a substantial percentage, bearing in mind it is 12 regions out of 14, are engaged in this sort of work at the present moment.


My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether the smaller groups which were originally envisaged within the Community Health Councils will now be put into operation? As he will probably be aware, there is some disquiet at the size of the area which the Community Health Council has to cover in comparison with the old hospital management boards.


My Lords, I do not think that I can go further than say that guidance has been issued for the training of Community Health Council members. This is what we are considering at the present moment. It has certainly, as I say, been accepted in principle by all the Regions and 12 of them are engaged in it at the present moment.


My Lords, could the Minister say whether members of Community Health Councils are required to take a check list with them when they visit various institutions? If not, would he encourage this?


My Lords, I am not sure what the noble Lady means by a " check list ". Perhaps we could have a word afterwards about this, but it is rather wide of the Question.


My Lords, this is a very important Question. Would it be possible for the Minister to let us know the different schemes which have been put into operation by the Regional Health Authorities, so that it may then be decided whether one local authority has some ideas which have not yet been put into operation by other Regional Health Authorities? The need is to get a general, good scheme which would be really helpful in this important matter.


My Lords, I take the point the noble Baroness has made. My first reaction to it is that it would involve a fairly substantial amount of administrative work to collect from something like 207 Community Health Councils the kind of programme and content of the programme that they are following. Perhaps I could answer the noble Baroness by saying that when my Department gave guidance on what these seminars should contain it was suggested to them that they should consider local health services in which they are currently involved; statistical and other data available and how to interpret it; the management structure of the National Health Service, particularly within districts and areas; financial and manpower constraints; the arrangement for planning services; and the procedure for making and dealing with suggestions and complaints by users of the Health Service. So this is really the programme, and this is the sort of programme that we have asked each Community Health Council to follow.