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Consult properly

From Dr Jo Ellins

Research associate

Picker Institute Europe

The recent legal dispute involving East Derbyshire PCT reveals a wide gap between the rhetoric and reality of patient and public involvement (News, 25 May).

A patient-centred NHS is expected to give people greater choice and control over the services they receive.

Yet East Derbyshire PCT failed to properly consult residents about proposed changes to their GP service, and then awarded a

contract to UnitedHealth Europe despite strong local opposition.

This is completely at odds with the notion of building health services around the wishes and choices of those who use them.

A commitment to patient and public involvement is worthless unless it is seriously and consistently pursued in practice.

PPI arrangements are currently being shaken up, and patient forums are soon to be replaced by local involvement networks.

These new networks must have a high public profile

and be backed by legislation to hold decision makers to account.

PCTs should also review their methods for public consultation.

It is not enough to send

out a consultation document, and hope that people

are able to find and reply

to it.

A more creative and proactive approach is much needed.

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