Published: 03/11/2005 Volume 115 No. 5980 Page 8

NHS bodies must no longer present the public with service redesigns that appear to be 'set in stone'.

Health minister Lord Warner told HSJ that acute and primary care trusts would be expected to consult the public on the principles behind any change rather than presenting them with a single proposal.

He made the comments at the DoH's final 'deliberative event' on healthcare outside hospitals, which took place in Birmingham on Saturday. One thousand people were asked for their views, to feed into a white paper to be published in two months.

'We want to set out the lessons of this process for the NHS, ' he said.

'Not just in terms of policy ideas but to get services more properly attuned to what the public actually wants. It might solve a lot of the angst in changing services.

'I think sometimes the health service has got into difficulty with reconfigurations.

'It hasn't engaged with the public at an early stage before coming up with what with looks like a set in stone proposal.' He said proposals for service change had traditionally been drafted in detail before the public was allowed to have its say.

'Are there ways the NHS can save itself blood, sweat and tears by having better consultation about the direction the public want services to take? We need to talk to PCTs about how we can do that.' He said one of the reasons for strengthening the commissioning side of PCTs was to get them 'closer to their communities'.

Health secretary Patricia Hewitt told the 1,000 consultees that their comments on the difficulty of accessing GP services would be taken into account when the white paper is written.