Headlines: June 6th, 2003

The Department of Health wants views on the draft regulations for the Patient’s Forums, which are due to go live in September 2003. The Forums will replace the Community Health Councils which for some 25 years have protected the interests of health service patients. The Councils fulfilled a ‘watchdog’ role, but the Forums are designed to involve patients in policy and implementation from the very top of the NHS through the Modernisation Boards right through to the grass roots level. It is argued that this will give patients a stronger voice in how their local health service is run and allow them to play an active role in decision making.The wider role of the Forums will include making unannounced visits to premises including those of GPs, dentists and pharmacists. They will be able to ask for any information relevant to their functions. Forums will be given a general power to refer matters of concern to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the local council.

The management Boards of NHS Trusts and Primary Care Trusts will be required to appoint one member of the local Forum to their Board.

Views should be sent to patientsforumregulations@doh.gsi.gov.uk . The consultation period ends on 16 July 2003.

A storm of protest is gathering following the announcement of government plans to force patients to sign up for healthier lifestyles in return for medical care. Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee, warned that the proposal would jeopardise the relationship that doctors had with their patients. Claire Rayner, president of the Patients Association, called the proposals “a nasty piece of political chicanery”. UNISON has condemned the proposals and Gail Adams, chair of its nursing committee said: “It is unacceptable to dictate a patient’s lifestyle to them or to barter for treatment.”