Primary care trusts and other healthcare providers could face increased pressure to respond to local people's concerns under a new 'community empowerment' white paper.

Plans for the legislation were unveiled last week by communities secretary Hazel Blears. A discussion document highlights the need for "more ability for communities to hold public officials to account".

The NHS Confederation hoped the white paper would draw together existing structures aimed at including people in local decision making, such as local involvement networks.

Deputy policy director Jo Webber said trusts needed to get better at giving feedback on consultation and public involvement work.

The white paper could mean more pressure to respond to local campaigns, suggested Tim Gilling, health scrutiny programme manager at the Centre for Public Scrutiny.

The Communities and Local Government department is currently consulting on proposals that would force councils to respond to petitions.

"There might be pressure there if the council has to comment about opening hours of GP surgeries or wider policy changes at a local hospital," said Mr Gilling.

A CLG spokesman said it would work with the Department of Health to explore practical and appropriate measures to boost accountability.

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