Citizens' juries can make the NHS more accountable for the way it makes decisions but are vulnerable to charges of 'window dressing', King's Fund reports have concluded.
Healthy Debate? an evaluation of six juries, found that they could provide an 'informed public view' and allowed people to act as citizens, rather than consumers of health services.
But Ordinary Wisdom, which reflects on three citizens' jury pilots run by the King's Fund, argues that they can only be effective if their aims are clear and health authorities are committed to the democratic process.
Otherwise, the report says, the juries may be seen as 'toeing the official line'.
The authors also note that, at£16,000 per jury, excluding staff costs, citizens' juries are not a cheap vehicle for debate.
The Healthy Debate? report says they are the Rolls Royce of public involvement, but adds that not everyone can afford a Rolls Royce.
Healthy Debate? and Ordinary Wisdom are both available from the Kings' Fund book shop on 0171-307 2591.£10 each.