Plans to open up the NHS to more public scrutiny by seeking patient appraisals have been unveiled by health minister, Alan Milburn.
Patients will shortly be able to give the stamp of disapproval to hospitals they regard as persistently sub-standard. They will be involved in major schemes through opinion surveys and citizens’ juries.
Milburn believes options such as patient representatives on new bodies aimed at improving NHS standards, allowing patients to have a direct say in key decisions, must be more widely adopted.
He told the Greater London Association of Community Health Councils, which represents patients, the best of the NHS was as good as anywhere in the world. But he added: “The worst is second rate.” He asked: “Who is likely to know best whether they have received an integrated high quality service? The patient.”
In addition to a national annual survey of users’ experience, an independent panel will be established to allay public fears about contentious alterations to health services. The panel will give ministers “impartial but expert advice on the quality and safety of controversial changes”.
Milburn emphasised the need for widespread access to more “user friendly” consultation documents. He told the conference: “Restoring public confidence is the key to modernising the NHS. Consultation on service changes like spending plans and hospital reorganisations needs to be more imaginative.”