A large number of primary care trusts (PCTs) have failed to consult properly on the introduction of GP-led health centres, according to a report by the NHS Support Federation.
A survey of all 152 PCTs undertaken by the independent campaigning organisation showed wide variations in the approach to consulting taken by each PCT, and even confusion about the need to consult at all.
In the report, Is the public shaping the future of their NHS?, the Federation claims that, despite legal advice from the Department of Health (DH) about PCTs' obligations to consult, a number of PCTs committed breaches in their consultation practices.
According to the report's findings, two thirds of PCTs did not ask local people whether they agree with the overall plan for a GP-led health centre; 16% of PCTs provided less than 12 weeks for responses – the minimum set out in the cabinet code on consultation – and only 16% of PCTs asked about the importance of the distance of travel to the new health centre.
The report authors believe "far more stringent monitoring and enforcement of standards" is needed around consultation on healthcare changes, and that "overall standards vary far too greatly."
The authors conclude that, in a large number of PCT consultations on GP-led health centres, "local people have effectively been denied the proper information and the opportunity to influence important primary care proposals."
"In our view, PCTs should not proceed with such changes unless the public have been properly consulted," the report concludes, arguing: "The Department of Health therefore needs to investigate consultation practices nationally and abandon their current implementation timetable until this has been achieved."
Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Absolutely not. We have a patient reference group but our views have been totally disregarded. It has been a completely cynical box-ticking exercise so the DH thinks the public has had its views taken into consideration" – Jane Stewart, location withheld