Taxpayers paying over the odds to fund "sham" listening exercise
Government figures have revealed that a consultation exercise designed to gauge public opinion on the future of the NHS cost taxpayers almost £900,000.
Citizens' juries, which have been criticised as a "sham" listening exercise, took place in nine regions last month, when more than 1,000 people were asked for their thoughts on the future of the NHS.
The responses were intended to inform a review of the health service for the government by health minister and surgeon Lord Darzi.
Junior health minister Ann Keen revealed in a Commons written reply the total cost of the NHS juries.
They were organised by Opinion Leader Research and cost £96,547 each, giving a total bill of £868,930.
Shadow health minister Stephen O'Brien said: "It is an outrage that Gordon Brown should haemorrhage taxpayers' money on these focus groups. It is a rather costly way of pretending that he is willing to listen.
"If Labour was really serious about listening to patients, then they would hear patients when they say that they want to keep their local A&E and maternity services."
But a spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: "These events were fundamental to understanding what people want from their NHS in the future and the results helped inform Lord Darzi's interim report, and will continue to advise the ongoing review."