• 13Jan

    National Voices members call for the government to strengthen service user involvement

    More than 40 National Voices members were featured in The Times this week calling for the government to strengthen the Health & Social Care Bill on service user involvement. This was in the form of a letter on p.23 and in an accompanying article on p.12. See the text of the letter and below and also, with a full list of signatories, on the National Voices website.

    “At the start of 2011 National Voices and other patient charities warned that the Health and Social Care Bill did too little to ensure that patients would be properly involved in their healthcare. There were many later improvements to the Bill, but as we enter 2012 there are still some significant weaknesses, which the government could remedy with cross-party support.

    This mammoth Bill, supposed to create an NHS where there is ‘no decision about us, without us’, contains no direct reference to the most effective forms of shared decision making with patients. These are: shared decisions about the most appropriate treatments, based on patient preferences and values as well as clinical knowledge; personalised care planning, where professionals help us organise care packages over time, including towards the end of life; and support for people to manage chronic conditions in order to maximise quality of life.

    Promoting these three aspects of shared decisions is proven to create better health outcomes, with more appropriate treatment, a better experience of care, and better use of healthcare resources. The government accepts this evidence but has so far refused to refer specifically to these aspects of care because it ‘could exclude’ other (unspecified) types of patient involvement.

    We strongly believe that without such clarity, the new care commissioners will not understand their general duty towards ‘patient involvement’. They will confuse it with people’s involvement in public consultations, and shaping the design of services. ‘Patient involvement’ is actually about the kind of care that they arrange for us – care which involves and supports us as full human beings, not ‘units of disease’, and gets the best value from expenditure.

    With 70% of healthcare resources now being spent on chronic, long term conditions, this could be a
    missed opportunity of very significant proportions.”