Thoughts on patient choice

One of the desired outcomes of the Public Health White Paper is noted in the summary (8d) as “changing adults behaviour”. We can all think of cases where this is not only desirable but essential if we are to avoid a burden of illness that could have an effect on not only that individual but possibly their family, work, retirement, housing etc. The direction of Government travel quite rightly recognises that no man is an island and we need to co-ordinate our thinking and approach to meeting or avoiding ill-health demands.

Central to this is information that drives patient choice. But I have questions about ‘patient’ and ‘choice’. The word patient still implies a passive recipient, some one on the receiving end. Is there a better word that we can use? The social services and business talk about ‘clients’ or ‘customers’; don’t these words give the individual service user the position of status they should have in their mind as they approach health professionals. My only problem with this is that although it confers status, it doesn’t confer responsibility.’Co-producer’ does but it just isn’t quite catchy enough; any advances?

As for ‘choice’, as ‘patients’ we should know about our options and this is where NHS professionals have been failing – not giving people information about their condition or treatment choices. This is the crucial level at which choice should be exercised; I am just wondering about the sustainability of giving everyone a choice over who they see at every level of care because the logical extension of choosing your consultant team is also choosing your physio, nurse team etc And if this is driven by information about performance, what if these teams are sited in different organsiations?…

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About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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