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Public denied say over GP-led health centres, says report

A large number of primary care trusts (PCTs) have failed to consultproperly on the introduction of GP-led health centres, according to areport by the NHS Support Federation.

A survey of all 152 PCTsundertaken by the independent campaigning organisation showed widevariations in the approach to consulting taken by each PCT, and evenconfusion 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 ofHealth (DH) about PCTs' obligations to consult, a number of PCTscommitted breaches in their consultation practices.

According tothe report's findings, two thirds of PCTs did not ask local peoplewhether they agree with the overall plan for a GP-led health centre;16% of PCTs provided less than 12 weeks for responses – the minimum setout in the cabinet code on consultation – and only 16% of PCTs askedabout the importance of the distance of travel to the new health centre.

Thereport authors believe "far more stringent monitoring and enforcementof standards" is needed around consultation on healthcare changes, andthat "overall standards vary far too greatly."

The authorsconclude that, in a large number of PCT consultations on GP-led healthcentres, "local people have effectively been denied the properinformation and the opportunity to influence important primary careproposals."

"In our view, PCTs should not proceed with suchchanges unless the public have been properly consulted," the reportconcludes, arguing: "The Department of Health therefore needs toinvestigate consultation practices nationally and abandon their currentimplementation timetable until this has been achieved."

NHS Support Federation