Health bosses have defended the importance of the voices of patients amid fears NHS reforms were sidelining non-professionals.
Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said patient participation groups and forums played a vital role in holding organisations to account and making services better.
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It also reiterated its commitment to consulting with residents on NHS matters as health bodies, councils and other public sector organisations join together strategically at borough and Greater Manchester level.
The CCG spoke out after Barry Fagan, who played a key role in setting up the patient participation group (PPG) at Pennygate GPs’ surgery in Hindley, said he feared the changes were shutting out lay voices.
He reminded the NHS that decisions taken at Westminster several years ago committed the health services to ensuring patients and their representatives had their opinions heard.
Mr Fagan said: “The government said that patients should lead the new NHS and be at the forefront of decisions.
“A white paper said from the bottom upwards the patient must be involved.
“Slowly but surely in the last couple of years and especially the last 12 months they’ve started setting up these boards which has reduced our role to such an extent that we don’t have a patients’ representative on some of them.
“Now the strategic health boards have members selected who are from the ruling political parties or are senior civil servants. It should be democratic, with elections to these boards and members only able to serve for a set number of years.
“We’ve put forward ideas to change the whole system. I suggested we should make things like aspirin at our hospital sites instead of buying them in at top prices and running cottage hospitals on the grounds of some of the sites for training nurses.
“The NHS needs to move forward and certain parts of our society are holding it back. They are looking at it politically rather than remembering they might be on one of those beds getting care one day.
“There are now very few faces I recognise at meetings. Very few people who were involved when I started off are still there.”
The CCG said there had been no changes to the relationships between PPGs and doctors’ surgeries.
It also suggested that Wiganers were getting chances to speak about higher-level decisions and the move towards Greater Manchester and borough-wide decision making was itself a response to how people want the health service to work.
Dr Tim Dalton, local GP and chair of NHS Wigan Borough CCG, said: “It is a requirement of the GP practice contract that practices have a PPG.
“The role of the PPG is to work with their GP practice to improve services for patients. Over the years, the CCG has built strong relationships with the 61 PPGs in the borough and we engage with them on decisions affecting local services.
"We remain committed to doing this and continue to offer them considerable support, including bringing PPGs together to share learning, inviting them to key events such as our annual PPG conference, and this year, at their request, we have developed a new training programme for PPG
“Local people have clearly told us that they want services to be more joined-up and that they get better care when the NHS and social care work together.
“The work we are doing to bring NHS and the local council together will help us deliver this and improve care, as well as making services more sustainable in the long-term.
“We have worked with our PPGs, and also wider patient groups, communities and local residents throughout this process and we will continue to do so.”