Efforts to win doctors' support for measuring quality should not be at the expense of involving patients, the Department of Health has been warned.

Guidance published last week emphasised that clinicians should suggest their own indicators and that trusts would have a largely free choice on what to collect and report.

NHS staff have been asked to rate the usefulness of around 400 metrics which are currently collected, including those from the National Patient Survey Programme.

Picker Institute head of policy and communications Don Redding said: "Those indicators are based on what patients have said is important. It would be an interesting situation if you had clinicians saying 'we don't think these are useful measures'.

"We must start from a view that if we are to plan what is important in patient experience our primary source must be patients themselves."

Striking a balance

Mr Redding said the need for local freedom also had to be balanced with comparability. "If the system as a whole fragments and diversifies too much you will lose the ability to compare and benchmark."

David Pink, chief executive of new patient representative body National Voices, said he welcomed greater measurement of quality, which will include patient reported outcome and patient experience measures. But work had "largely been populated by clinicians". Patients should set the "objectives" of treatment themselves, he said.

Mr Pink said the patient survey programme and comparability in general were important. He said there were some fears that "the huge concern about getting clinicians on board could be seen as at the expense of involving patients".

See Quality accounts: pressure on to pick a winning combination