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Junior health minister John Bowis has met the National Users and Carers Group to receive feedback about their exper...
Junior health minister John Bowis has met the National Users and Carers Group to receive feedback about their experiences of the community care arrangements.

He has also asked them to consider ideas for the Community Care Framework Charter and will be meeting them separately on this.

The group has been looking at the involvement of users and carers in the community care planning and consultation processes. It highlighted the good practice emerging in some authorities but found that this was patchy.

They made a number of observations:

1. The structural changes happening, or foreshadowed, in both health and local authorities make it even more essential that planning mechanisms are maintained, developed and improved to be more responsive to the views of users and carers.

2. Consultation with users and carers is an important tool in the planning process. Consultation should be a continuous process of discussion and feedback - not a once a year public relations exercise.

3. Senior officers in local and health authorities need to demonstrate a commitment to proper consultation processes which should include them having regular contact with users and carers.

4. Statutory authorities should recognise that users and carers need assistance to become involved in planning and consultation. This assistance should include administrative support as well as practical help with the timing of meetings, transport and expenses.

5. Planning and consultation processes should seek to ensure involvement of people from ethnic minorities, as appropriate.

6. Users and carers need to be involved in the training of health and community care workers. This will help professional workers not only to better understand users' and carers' needs for services but also how best to involve users and carers in consultation about the future development and delivery of services.

Responding to the group's comments Mr Bowis said:

'Involving users and their carers in planning and developing community care services is central to ensuring that users and carers benefit from our community care reforms. Those responsible for purchasing and delivering services need, as far as possible, to share their ideas and decisions with users and carers, or their representatives.

'I am particularly pleased that the group will be considering some of these issues further and giving me views on what from their perspective, constitutes good consultation arrangements.'

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