National Health Service accountability is to be taken up a notch when new legislation comes into force next April requiring health bosses to report on consultations that form the basis of commissioning decisions.

It is hoped that the new legal requirement for primary care trusts and strategic health authorities to issue reports outlining consultations will help to boost patient engagement, local services and the patient experience by outlining the degree of influence the public has in each decision and increasing their accountability for the choices they make.

“Never before has it been more important that the NHS redouble its efforts to consult, respond to and be accountable to people,” remarked NHS chief executive David Nicholson. Particularly in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trusts scandal it is “essential” that the service can demonstrate it has listened to, and acted on, the concerns of patients and public, he said.

Furthermore, he explained, the challenges facing public services in the next few years are “considerable” and so it is crucial that services are designed and remodelled around patient needs. “Now is not the time to reduce our efforts or lose our focus on consulting people and communities,” Nicholson stressed.

In order to help health bodies best prepare for this new legal obligation the Department of Health has published a guide Real Accountability explaining the legislation and offering advice on how best to publish these reports, the first of which will be published by September 2010 to provide evidence of an organisation’s responsiveness to patient feedback.

But this is just the beginning, Nicholson claims: “It is appropriate that we start with commissioners, but I do not want to stop there. I want to see this imperative bite equally strongly on NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts".

To that end, over the next year arrangements will be put in place for the new Statement of Involvement, further strengthening the requirements on PCTs, NHS trusts and NHS foundation trusts to involve, respond to and be accountable to local people. “Our aim is to see the _rst statements, including the commentaries, published in September 2011 and covering the year from April 2010 to March 2011”, he said.