Politics: Patients to grade hospital services

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The Independent Online
NATIONAL Health Service patients will be able to give hospital services the thumbs up, or the thumbs down, in a move to open up the service to more public scrutiny to be announced today by the health minister, Alan Milburn, writes Colin Brown.

The health service's annual reports could come to resemble Thomson holiday brochures, with ratings from their customers under the planned changes.

As well as a national annual survey of patients' experience, Mr Milburn will announce that there will be new ways of involving the public in changes to local health services. He believes options such as opinion surveys and citizen's juries - in which patients would have a direct say in decisions - must be more widely used.

He will tell the Greater London Association of Community Health Councils, which represents patients, that consultation documents need to be more "user-friendly" and more widely available. Mr Milburn will also tell the conference that "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."

An independent panel will be set up to reassure the public that ministers will receive independent clinical advice on the quality and safety of controversial changes to health services.