The Department of Health (DH) today urged PCTs to engage better with patients and the public in developing plans and making decisions about local health services.
Newly strengthened Duty to Involve guidance will also make feedback on public consultations more transparent and accessible.
This follows on from Lord Darzi's review of the NHS earlier this year in which he recommended that any changes to NHS services should be transparent, locally led and for the benefit of patients.
The DH says increased patient involvement will enable local NHS organisations to put patients' wishes first and give staff the freedom to respond and deliver safer, more personalised care.
Health Minister Ann Keen said: "Feedback from patients is one of the most powerful tools available to the NHS to help improve services, which is why the Duty to Involve has been strengthened. The NHS is a public service so it is only right that the public should have their say on how the service is shaped.
"Helping local NHS organisations to understand and act upon the duty is essential to making the most of this feedback, which is why we have produced this guidance to help them involve patients effectively."
The new Duty to Involve is also expected to be included in the NHS Constitution due to come into force next year. The duty will take effect next month but will be included as one of the existing rights set out in the constitution, to make it easy for patients to find all their rights in one place.