Patients given powers to hold their GPs to account

Patients will be given increased powers to hold GPs and practice-based commissioners to account over service delivery, health ministers have signalled.

Ministers told a 'citizen summit', held this month to gather patient feedback on the primary care White Paper, that the DoH plans to create a patient group to act as a 'sounding board' to help develop access targets.

They said patients would be involved in drawing up the patient survey for the directed enhanced service on access, which would be worth £20,000 to the average practice from 2006/7 (GP, 24 February).

Ministers also suggested strengthening local watchdogs to hold commissioners of healthcare to account.

Junior health minister Liam Byrne said it was important that the citizens' summit model was used to shape healthcare locally.

'If we bring them together you would have a more powerful watchdog,' he said.

Health minister Lord Warner told the summit: 'On access to GPs, I would like to take away from this gathering the idea of developing a sounding board as we develop this issue over the next year with the profession.'

However, GPs have dismissed the comments as 'tokenism' and urged the DoH not to push patient involvement too far.

GPC member Dr Nigel Watson said: 'Patients should be at the centre of what we do but healthcare is complicated.

'I don't think patients can run the service. Things are going too far that way without good evidence to show what the benefit is going to be.'

He added that extensive local consultation would take up a large amount of practice time.

'We can't do our own job, practice-based commissioning and then all this engaging,' he said.

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