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Health Expect. 2001 Sep;4(3):170-9.

A 'Third Way' for lay involvement: what evidence so far?

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University of Manchester, National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, Manchester M13 9PL, UK.



This article considers evidence regarding lay involvement in the NHS, following the White Paper's commitment to rebuild public confidence in an NHS 'accountable to patients and open to the public and shaped by their views'. It looks at two aspects of lay involvement: the lay board member's involvement in primary care group (PCG) decision-making and the engagement of the PCG with the wider public.


The paper analyses data from the first sweep of the annual Tracker Survey of a sample of PCGs in England, led by the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre in collaboration with the King's Fund between September and December 1999. It draws specifically from the postal questionnaires sent to lay members. Firstly, however, it contextualizes this data by reviewing the history of lay involvement before 1997 in the NHS and particularly in primary care.


The paper concludes that, during the first 6 months of their operation, the lay voice was faintly heard in PCGs. The lay member's role in decision-making at board-level was peripheral. The majority rated their involvement in key aspects of decision-making as low and their influence on decision-making below that of other board members including the Chief Officer, the chair and the GP board members. Beyond the arena of the board, what little contact there was with the lay voice has taken the shape of informing rather than consulting. Mitigating factors include the early stage at which the survey was completed and the lack of precedents for lay involvement in primary care in a broad sense on which PCGs can draw.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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