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Doubts over expert patients

The Expert Patient Programme has not lived up to the 'hyperbole' and more evidence is required before further money is spent on its rollout, an analysis concludes.

Researchers warned online in the BMJ that although the programme might improve patients' confidence at self-managing, four UK trials had found little evidence of any important effect on hospital admissions or use of other health resources.

The Department of Health has made sweeping claims over the potential benefits of the scheme, which has had £18m of funding so far and is set to reach 100,000 patients by 2012.

Lead author Dr Stephanie Taylor, senior clinical lecturer at the Centre for Health Sciences at Barts and The London, said there had been 'considerable hyperbole' around the programme. 'Initially a lot was said about reducing admissions but there isn't the evidence to support it in the UK.'

She added that evidence from the US, where lay-led programmes had originated, was not applicable to the UK where healthcare access is universal.

Dr Anne Kennedy, research fellow at the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, who analysed the national EPP pilot, said the programme had been 'mis-sold' by the Government but that it was useful to some patients as part of a package of options.

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