Feedback from patient participation groups (PPGs) should replace patient surveys, according to the GPC and the NHS Alliance.
The call comes as a group of medical bodies, including the RCGP, the BMA and the DoH, called for every practice in the UK to set up a PPG. Around 40 per cent of practices currently have such a group.
NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon said they were 'twice as important' as costly patient experience surveys and called for cash incentives for practices to set them up.
However, DoH director for GP access Dr Mike Warburton ruled out cash incentives, despite backing the groups.
The recent patient survey has been criticised by the GPC, with many practices facing five-figure losses due to low response rates (GP, 29 May).
GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said a government commitment to listen to patient groups rather than surveys would provide the incentive for GPs to set them up.
'The motivation is not about money - I want these groups to be listened to, not just locally, but nationally. I'd rather that than have millions spent on a survey.
'The output of the PPG must be listened to not just by the practice but the NHS,' he said.
Dr Buckman added that PPGs could shield practices from pointless government targets or PCT initiatives.
Dr Warburton added that PPGs would form networks to provide patients with a voice at PCT level.
Richard MacRae, a patient and PPG member in Warrington, Cheshire said his PCT rescinded plans to radically reorganise health services after his group raised concerns.
'Talking face-to-face with patients is far more effective than asking them to fill in questionnaires,' he said.
The National Association for Patient Participation is providing support packs to help practices and PCTs develop their PPGs.
A centrally-held 'PPG pot' has also been proposed to reward innovative or active work by PPGs.
- Visit www.napp.org.uk for support packs and information
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