THE 2,983 people who have registered as NHS Foundation Trust members have started voting for their representatives on the Council of Members at the Countess of Chester Hospital.
The people come from West Cheshire and Flintshire and include 434 Countess staff.
This week Electoral Reform Ballot Services Ltd, which is handling the election process on behalf of the Countess, will be sending out ballot papers direct to each registered member's home. Voting will end on March 29.
Hospital chairwoman Susan Sellers said: 'The Council of Members is a vital part of the governance of a Foundation Trust. It will represent the interests of all the members and partner organisations.
'The council will also work together with the board of directors to determine the forward plans for the hospital.
She added: 'The response from those wishing to stand for election has also been excellent - with 39 public members standing for the 19 designated places - including nine residents from the Ellesmere Port and Neston area.
'In addition, 18 hospital staff are going forward for election to the six places designated for Foundation Trust Staff Council members.'
Candidates will be notified of the results on Tuesday March 30.
The hospital's application to become a NHS Foundation Trust is currently being assessed by the Independent Regulator.
If successful, authorisation will commence on April 1 2004.