How best to ensure patients are at the heart of the health service is the subject of an NHS Alliance online debate running for six weeks from 20 October.

NHS Alliance spokesman Brian Fisher said: “We now have an opportunity to debate how we can best embed patient and public involvement throughout the NHS and make it a vibrant tool for those key processes that need to be active everywhere: accountability, safety, service redesign, efficiency.”

Department of Health spokeswoman Joan Saddler said: “The engagement of people in their own care and in the shaping of local services leads to new ideas, improved quality, high productivity and better relations.

“We welcome this debate and look forward to finding out how people think the NHS can do more to put patients at the heart of its work.”

Participants are asked to contribute practical suggestions on how patients and the public can be involved in a meaningful way and answer six questions about NHS accountability.

A report summarising the debate will be published at the end of the year.