Claims that the expert patients programme will ease pressures on the NHS have been queried by an academic who reviewed the scheme for the Department of Health.

Launching the programme's transition to becoming a social enterprise company, the DoH released what it called 'internal evaluation data'. This claimed that, after completing the programme, patients attended 7 per cent fewer GP consultations, 10 per cent fewer outpatient visits, and 16 per cent fewer attendances at accident and emergency.

But Professor Martin Roland, director of the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre at Manchester University, who produced a 'rigorously conducted trial' of the programme last year for the DoH, questioned the claims. He said that although there were moderate gains in patients' energy and quality of life, he had found no impact on use of routine health services, such as GP consultations and outpatient visits.

He said: 'Our trial had clearly positive results though we didn't find a reduction in resource use of GPs and outpatients. We were surprised that the department's press release cited an internal evaluation we haven't seen, rather than a rigorously conducted external trial funded by the DoH.'

Download the DoH expert patient data here