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 is a social pioneer, writer and campaigner. She studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991, later specialising in visual impairment and diabetes. During her career in optometry, she lectured at City University, was a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital and worked with Primary Care Trusts. She ran a domiciliary practice across south London and was a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. Julia formed 20/20Health in 2006. Becoming an expert in digital health solutions, she led on the NHS–USA Veterans’ Health Digital Health Exchange Programme and was co-founder of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Her research interests are now in harnessing digital to improve personal health, and she is a PhD candidate in Human Computer Interaction (HCI) at UCL. She is also dedicated to creating a sustainable Whole School Wellbeing Community model for schools that builds relationships, discovers assets and develops life skills. She is a member of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Digital Health Council. 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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