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Ex-BBC man offers vision for health service charter

The former head of policy at the BBC has claimed the NHS could learn from the broadcaster as it strives to improve accountability and patient involvement.

A report written by David Levy and published by the Picker Institute argues that patients would benefit if the NHS adopted a "public value approach" along the lines of the BBC charter model.

This would involve having a national debate on NHS values and setting clear objectives for the health service endorsed by the public.

He suggests that a more independent NHS Authority with a chief executive could run the health service, which would be financed through a ringfenced NHS fund.

Patients would have a clearer idea of NHS funding if it was explained in terms of money spent per household, he adds.

The model would also make it clearer who was in charge and would place a greater emphasis on working together with patients to improve their health.

Picker Institute chief executive Angela Coulter said the analysis was an exciting contribution to the debate on boosting NHS accountability in the run-up to an NHS constitution.

"We're certainly not saying 'turn the NHS into an exact replica of the BBC'," she explained. "We're saying the NHS can learn from looking at other sectors and grabbing good ideas wherever it finds them."

She said the NHS should look to the BBC for inspiration. "The thing that excites me most is this idea of public value and the idea of engaging more with the public in the debate about the principles of the NHS, how it should be judged and what it is there for. I think that can happen at a local and national level."

She said a few primary care trusts had already gone down that route by developing ethical frameworks.

"Once you have got those principles then that really helps shape local decision making so that's the test - the public value test - of service reconfiguration or new services," she said.

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