A CONSERVATIVE Assembly Member has called the Welsh Government's consultation on Community Health Councils "a blatant stitch-up".

Following "fresh controversy" over the handling of engagement events as the future role of Community Health Councils (CHCs)

Mark Isherwood, Shadow Communities Secretary, has criticised the consultation’s failure to properly engage with the public.

He has called for its deadline to be extended to give CHCs and its supporters the opportunity to draw up counterproposals.

In June, the Cabinet Secretary for Health launched a White Paper – Services fit for the future – which among other proposals recommended the establishment of a “new independent body for patient voice and regulation and inspection” to replace CHCs.

A four-month consultation on the White Paper’s proposals runs until September 29.

But according to Facebook posts seen by Welsh Conservatives, the company which Labour ministers have hired to lead on public engagement – Communities Connected – began their search for venues to accommodate focus groups less than a week ago (September 2), leaving just three weeks until the consultation’s end.

One post by a Communities Connected employee includes the phrase “tight turnaround” in their appeal for potential venues and focus group participants which are yet to be booked. In another, the employee seems to suggest the scrapping of CHCs is inevitable despite the consultation phase still being ongoing.

Mark Isherwood AM said: “This consultation has from the start been a blatant stitch-up, amounting to little more than a cosmetic exercise.

“The lack of urgency Welsh Government has accorded to organising these vital engagement events - not to mention the lack of opportunity for stakeholders on all sides of the debate to properly express their views in publicly accessible events - completely undermines the legitimacy of this process.

“It is vital that this consultation takes on as many views as possible, so that the needs of patients can be fully reflected. It must not succumb to the rubber-stamping exercise Labour ministers wish it to be.

“I call on the Cabinet Secretary to extend the consultation to allow CHCs and their supporters a fair opportunity to draw up counterproposals to Welsh Government’s plans. I cannot discount the possibility of pursuing judicial review in the event that a deadline extension is not granted.”