Letters

I was pleased to see Margaret Edwards and Emilie Roberts stress how primary care groups should consult older patients when assessing the services they provide ('Old testament', pages 30-31, 3 February).

Age Concern London has just published an action research report based on five London practices' experiences of consulting their older patients, which demonstrates just how beneficial such a two-way dialogue can be.

Our research found that many of the older patients - all regular users of their surgeries - did not know what services were available from their practice and did not realise, for example, that they could see the practice nurse rather than the GP. They were anxious about bothering their GPs unnecessarily, and welcomed the opportunity to learn more about services so that they could use them more appropriately.

But the research also showed how important time, resources and commitment are to effective consultation.

GPs and surgery staff are under considerable pressure, and finding the time to listen to patients' views is rarely top priority.

If the commitment to involving patients is serious, as health guidelines suggest is should be, then PCGs must recognise this and provide the resources and support required.

Paula Jones Director Age Concern London A Voice for Older Londoners in the Doctor's Surgery . Age Concern London, 54 Knatchbull Road, London SE5 9QY.£10.