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?…


About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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