GP consortia and the NHS commissioning board must ensure they involve the public in decision making and commission services in line with their needs, the government has said in a consultation paper on commissioning published today.

The document, which accompanies the health white paper published last week, says consortia and the board will need to develop “efficient and effective” ways of gathering the public’s views and encouraging their participation.

It says consortia should be accountable to local people for the decisions that they make and that the NHS commissioning board will be expected to ensure GP practices provide the public with accessible information about their services.  

However, it says: “We are not starting with a clean sheet”. It calls for commissioners to establish relationships with local Health Watch branches - which it acknowledges will be rebranded local involvement networks - existing GP practice patient participation groups and other local voluntary organisations.

It asks for feedback on how GP consortia and the board can best involve patients in making commissioning decisions that are built on patient insight, and how can GP consortia best work alongside community partners (including seldom heard groups) to ensure that commissioning decisions are equitable, and reflect public voice and local priorities.

In their pre-election campaign, the Liberal Democrats had called for primary care trusts to have boards elected by their local population.

Also under the white paper’s proposals, councils have an increased role in promoting partnership working with the NHS and take on responsibility for the health improvement functions of PCTs.

The consultation document says councils’ enhanced role will provide a framework for joint working with GP consortia such as joint assessments of the health needs of local neighbourhoods. It adds that alongside this consortia should involve relevant health and social care professionals from all sectors in commissioning in order to drive up quality.

Responses to the document must be submitted by 11 October.