TV chief charts new course in the health service

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The Independent Online
The man who brought Roland Rat to our television screens has been put in charge of reworking the Patient's Charter in time for the 50th anniversary of the NHS next year.

Greg Dyke, chairman and chief executive of Pearson TV, will work with a panel of advisors from the health professions, patients' organisations, the NHS and with consumer groups to draw up the new standards.

The new NHS charter will emphasise the responsibilities of patients as well as their rights, will keep standards for waiting times and include measurable standards of care.

"The Patient's Charter at the moment needs to be simplified and made clearer to consumers," said Mr Dyke. "It is the mood of the times that rights and obligations are included in the new charter."

He said that he was a "great fan" of the NHS. "I am a consumer, not a health expert which is, I think, why I have been asked to take this on." He said that although he belonged to a private health scheme through his work he did use NHS services.

But Frank Dobson, Secretary of State for Health, warned yesterday that patients must recognise that they have obligations as well as rights in the National Health Service, and did not rule out sanctions against patients who failed to cancel appointments, abused nurses or turned up drunk in Accident and Emergency Departments.

"We all have responsibilities as well as rights," said Mr Dobson. "If you have an appointment at outpatients and you simply don't turn up it is not just harmful for you, a nuisance for staff, but also another patient who might have been seen won't have been seen," he said. "People do things which are positively harmful. We are saying you should not turn up drunk at A&E, you should not duff up nurses."

He said that some people did support sanctions against patients that behaved in this way although others felt it might "do more harm than good".