Letter: NCT must remain free from commercial interests

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Sir: It is heartbreaking to watch the NCT be torn apart when it has provided more support for parents through childbirth and early years than any other organisation ("NCT in crisis over Sainsbury sponsorship", 6 May). After all there is only so much an overburdened NHS can do and the NCT has worked hand in hand with the NHS to create more choice in childbirth and make it a better experience.

There are many of us at the local level who have spent rewarding years organising ante-natal classes, breast-feeding support, social events and other services to ease the transition from giving birth into parenthood, which can otherwise be a very isolating time for many mothers. We can only look on with sadness and ask those at the centre to reflect on two points of commonsense managerial practice, which seem to have been overlooked in recent decision-making.

First, not only have they made huge increases in local membership fees, which is a recipe for self-extinction, but such changes have been foisted on members without proper consultation. In the same way that many unions and professional associations have had to become more democratically accountable to the members over the last 20 years, so must the NCT have an overhaul of its approach to accountability and participation.

Second, these changes have been made to support an increasingly top-heavy centralised operation, undermining the strength of local branches who are the mainstay in delivering services to the community. This flies in the face of good managerial practice as other organisations move to thin managerial hierarchies and decentralise and empower those at the front line.

Only by being less defensive and listening to local members can it rebuild the trust and faith that we have had in the past, and become again the dynamic organisation it has always been.

Dr DIANA WINSTANLEY

Director

Health Management Programme

Imperial College Management School

London SW7

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