Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

The rise of doctor-patient working groups

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: (Published 14 November 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:1374
  1. Charlotte Williamson, chairwoman
  1. Consumers for Ethics in Research (CERES), PO Box 1365, London N16 0BW
  • Accepted 26 July 1998

Doctors are increasingly taking the view that high standards of treatment and care come from marrying their perspectives to those of patients.1Setting up working groups of patients and doctors to explore similarities and differences in perspectives, values, and interests is one way of bringing about that marriage. The number of patient liaison groups in the medical royal colleges2 and the number of patient participation groups in general practice3 is increasing. Patients are being appointed to clinical audit groups,4 to research groups designing study protocols,5 and to groups developing clinical guidelines.6However, two questions arise: which patients should be appointed, and how should doctors judge the validity of what those who have been appointed say?

Questions may also arise about the selection and contribution of health professionals to working groups. However, the familiar structure and ideology of the medical professionmake it easier to respond to these types of questions. It seems natural to appoint doctors to a working group who have experience relevant to the group's task, who have knowledgeof leading edge theory and practice in their field, and who can sustain good working relationships with patients and their representatives. The equivalent attributes should be sought from those representing patients: experience, expertise, and the ability to sustain good working relationships with doctors. But the ideology and structure of the patients' side is not yet well understood and this may make it hard to decide who to appoint.

Summary points

  • Doctors are increasingly recognising that working groups on qualitative issues in health care should include patients as members

  • Those patients appointed as members of working groups should be patients, members of organised groups of patients, or patients who act as advocates for patients; members should be appointed on the basis of their having the appropriate knowledge for …

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