Health Bill must protect patient voice, warns peer

Patient involvement in commissioning must be clarified and protected in the Health Bill, a leading peer has urged.

Baroness Young: patients with diabetes want to know who’s in charge of each aspect of their care
Baroness Young: patients with diabetes want to know who’s in charge of each aspect of their care

Cross-bench peer Baroness Barbara Young, chief executive of charity Diabetes UK, said patient involvement was present in the reforms but it remained unclear how this would work in practice.

Members of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Diabetes yesterday also warned that the ‘Nicholson challenge’ to save £20bn was already severely impacting provision of local diabetes services.

Baroness Young said commissioners must maintain good relationships with patient representative groups to improve care.

Speaking at the meeting in London, Baroness Young said: ‘There is a commitment to patient and public involvement in the Bill, but we want to see how that will happen. At the moment, it is still unclear.’

She added that patients with diabetes want to know who’s in charge of each aspect of their care.

The complexity of the emerging administration makes it even more important to ensure this accountability is clear, she said.

Patient representative Sheila Burston, executive honorary secretary of Bexley Support Group in south east London, said the handover from PCTs to clinical commissioning groups – formerly GP consortia – risked damaging patient involvement.

She said commissioners were struggling with a lack of guidance and structure to follow when forming patient councils to input into commissioning decisions.

The guidance to the Bill must include a structure for how such groups should be established and run democratically, she urged.

Last week, GP reported how GP achievement of QOF indicators could be hit by cuts to local diabetes education centres.

Now, Wednesday's APPG heard how 200 vacancies for specialist diabetes nurses across the country cannot be filled due to the budget squeeze. This is ‘asking for trouble’, members agreed.

Baroness Young said Diabetes UK would issue a booklet to all diabetes patients, describing ‘what they should expect’ from the NHS, to ensure they can successfully lobby for change if satisfactory care is not being provided.

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