The planned new national patients' body should not be restricted to commenting on the NHS but could have a broader remit, a study commissioned by health secretary Alan Milburn has recommended.

The national body - yet to be named - should take a 'wide view of health as experienced by patients and the public', a report of the findings says.

Its role could also include advising on recruitment, support and training for patients and public representatives on NHS bodies, and set standards for the new patients' councils and related groups.

The report argues for the body to be a membership organisation, with members drawn from patients' councils and related bodies and the voluntary health sector.

It recommends that the body should have 'clearly defined and multi-faceted accountability, reporting to a Commons select committee, members and the public'.

The study was funded by the Department of Health and commissioned by the Patients' Forum, the College of Health and the Long-Term Medical Conditions Alliance. It was originally announced as a 'feasibility study' into whether a national patient organisation was needed after ministers came under fire over the abolition of community health councils and the Association of Community Health Councils for England and Wales.

Its advisory panel issued a preliminary recommendation - during tense parliamentary debate over the Health and Social Care Bill - that a statutory national body was needed.

The government conceded this point while the bill went through the Lords.

Patient and Public Involvement in the NHS - what is needed at national level? www. thepatientsforum. org. uk