An official government assessment of a £1 million public consultation project into the future of NHS services, declared it to be fake.
Your Health, Your Care, Your Say was the consultation project initiated by ministers for people to have a say in a White Paper on health published this year. However, most of the people who participated in it complained that they had no influence on the final policies.14% of those who participated felt that their opinions were taken into account. Over 28% felt that they had "not much" influence on the matter of the White Paper. The taxpayer funded the cost of the project.
The ministers were condemned for not including the matters mentioned by the people in the project. Payment to participants had taken the form of "expenses", costing on the whole a whopping £151,300. The taxpayer also paid travel and hotel accommodation for the consultation's "summit" in Birmingham, but the Department of Health has refused to reveal that bill. A few of the participants confessed that they were "only there for the money".
The health service faces a shortage of £500 million. David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive, said that nearly 60 services needed to be revamped that threaten to demote A&E and children's services at some trusts. This makes people to go to larger regional hospitals for better facilities for acute and emergency care.
The consultation took place from September to December 2005. After the publication of the White Paper, a meeting was conducted in March.
Totally, 254 people participated in the discussions Gateshead, Leicester, London and Plymouth. Each of them got £75. 1,000 people, each receiving £125, attended the summit in Birmingham.
The evaluation report, commissioned by the Department of Health, said there were concerns about "restricted polling questions" that were "slightly leading and framed to get specific answers".
One participant said: "We ended up voting for what they wanted us to vote for. Some things should not have been there on the list."
Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, said when the White Paper was published: "The public told us that they wanted three things from community services: to have more control of their own health and care; to enable and support people to maintain their health, independence and well-being; and rapid and convenient access to high-quality, cost-effective care. We have listened to the public."
Dr Richard Vautrey, of the British Medical Association's general practitioners' committee, said: "This consultation was a charade which should not be repeated."