Private firms to issue patient advice with an NHS kitemark

GP leaders rail against 'excessive' use of advisers.

The DoH has announced plans to accredit private companies as 'trustworthy' providers of information on healthcare, GP can reveal.

The government thinks that patients require more information about medicine and health services to be able to make informed choices. But it is concerned that they may feel overwhelmed by the quantity of material available, and uncertain as to what they can trust.

The Information Standard scheme - itself run by private firm Capita - will certify organisations that produce health and social care information, such as websites, leaflets and brochures.

DoH guidance says that its benefits will include enhancing the reputations of providers and enable patients to 'recognise quality'.

'The public will be reassured through a recognisable quality mark,' it adds.

The DoH said it expects that all NHS organisations will join the scheme. But it will also include private health organisations such as Bupa, as well as complementary medicine providers.

GPC chairman Dr Laurence Buckman said that the scheme was 'only of use as a way of giving money to the private sector'.

'The NHS is perfectly capable of verifying its own sources of information,' he said. 'Why bring in an external source to do that?'

He compared the scheme to the £350 million the NHS spent on management consultants last year.

Surveys conducted by the DoH have found that, once such a scheme was in place, a majority of patients (78 per cent) would only use information from organisations approved by the scheme.

A similar number (80 per cent) believe that some organisations are currently producing 'biased information for their own gain'.

The Information Standard scheme is currently being tested with 39 selected providers. It is expected to launch nationwide this summer.

It will run in parallel to the health information website NHS Evidence, which is aimed primarily at clinicians.

jonn.elledge@haymarket.com

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