NHS patients must have more input on services

NHS organisations are still not giving patients enough say on health services.

A Healthcare Commission study of more than 130 healthcare organisations and 170 user groups in England found that patients did not feel they had enough input into what services were provided or how they were delivered.

Vulnerable people and those in poorest health often found it most difficult to engage with health services. Many patient groups were not convinced that the health service wanted their views or would act on them.

The report says: “Few trusts could demonstrate that people’s views routinely influence their decision making.”

This is despite 98 per cent of healthcare organisations telling the commission they sought and took into account patient views in last year’s annual health check.

The watchdog said it found “some excellent practice” in primary care trusts, particularly around major reorganisations of services, but also increasingly on service reviews and procurements.

But it said PCTs were making slower progress in driving public influence on GP practices and there were few examples of PCTs writing into contracts that providers must engage with local people.

There were “good examples” of acute and ambulance trusts involving patients in changes to how services are delivered.

And mental health and learning disability trusts in particular demonstrated how users of services could “participate more actively and form partnerships with service providers”.

The independent sector was less likely to capture “qualitative” information about patient experience or to share ideas in patient discussion groups.

Local involvement networks (LINks) were seen as an advantage, because they could bring patient and user groups together across local areas and across health and social care.

The commission has called for a national development programme for the NHS and the private sector to support improvements in public engagement. It says staff – including clinicians – must be supported to develop engagement skills. The Department of Health should incorporate patient experience feedback into initiatives such as quality accounts.

NHS organisations should be able to demonstrate a minimum level of performance on patient engagement.

Health minister Ann Keen said: “I welcome the Healthcare Commission’s report and will study its findings closely. Many NHS staff already work hand in hand with patients to provide safer, more effective care but we want to make this the norm for all services.”

She pointed to the next stage review, the NHS Constitution, and information prescriptions as evidence the department was committed to patient engagement.


Health Direct points our that it was patients’ relatives that initially blew the whistle on the Mid Staffs disaster where up to 1,200 people met early deaths.

The Conservatives, the Telegraph, the Patients Association- and now even the Healthcare Commission recognise the importance of listening to patients.

All the labour government can say is that their discredited constitution is concerned.

How many more thousands of people are doing to die early because of labour’s incompetence, waste, red tape and discredited targets?

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