Radical Changes To The NHS Proposed: Patient Information & Choice

No decision about me without me

The Government intends to create a ‘shared decision making’ environment in the National Health Service between patients and healthcare providers. Based on International evidence the Government believes that the changes will result in improved treatment, increased patient satisfaction and significant cost savings. Government proposals are based on three key points:

  1. An ‘Information Revolution’
  2. Greater Choice, and
  3. The creation of HealthWatch

NHS Information Revolution

A key element of the reforms is putting information in the hands of patients. The Government intends to:

  • Give patients control of their health records so that they can share information with third parties, such as support groups, who can help patients understand their records and manage their condition better
  • Give people access to comprehensive, trustworthy and easy to understand information on:
    • Conditions
    • Treatments
    • Lifestyle choices, and
    • How to look after their own and their family’s health
  • Allow patients to communicate online with their clinics
  • Encourage widespread use of patient experience surveys and real-time feedback
  • Allow patients to rate services and clinical departments according to the quality of care they received. This feedback from patients, carers and families will help to inform other people with similar conditions to make the right choice of hospital or clinical department and will encourage providers to be more responsive
  • Publish NHS feedback around the quality of the patient care provided in organisations

In future, there will be information, comparable between similar providers, on:

  • Safety – e.g. healthcare infections, adverse events, avoidable deaths
  • Effectiveness – e.g. mortality rates, emergency re-admission rates, patient-reported outcome measures
  • Experience – e.g. information on average and maximum waiting times; opening hours, clinic times, cancelled operations

Patient Choice

The Government intends to increase Patient choice. The Government will:

  • Increase significantly the choices available to patients when deciding upon a healthcare provider
  • Create a presumption that all patients will have choice and control over their care and treatment
  • Introduce choice of named Consultant led team for elective care by April 2011 where clinically appropriate
  • Extend maternity choice
  • Begin to introduce choice of treatment and provider in some mental health services from April 2011
  • Begin to introduce choice for diagnostic testing, and choice post-diagnosis, from 2011
  • Introduce choice in care for long-term conditions as part of personalised care planning
  • Give patients more information on research studies that are relevant to them
  • Give every patient a clear right to choose to register with any GP practice they want with an open list, without being restricted by where they live. equally that they can stay with their GP if they wish when they move house
  • Develop a coherent 24/7 urgent care service in every area of England. This will incorporate GP out-of-hours services and provide urgent medical care for people registered with a GP elsewhere


A new independent consumer champion will be created within the Care Qualify Commission called HealthWatch. The new body will be split into HealthWatch England (at a national level) and Local HealthWatch. Local HealthWatch will be funded by and will be accountable to local authorities, who will be responsible for ensuring the local body is operating effectively.

Local HealthWatch will:

  • Ensure views & feedback from patients & carers form an integral part of local commissioning across health & social care
  • Help people access and make choices about services
  • Provide intelligence for national HealthWatch and will be able to report concerns about the quality of providers, independently of the local authority

HealthWatch England will:

  • Provide leadership, advice and support to local HealthWatch
  • Provide advice to the Health and Social Care Information Centre on the information which would be of most use to patients to facilitate their choices about their care
  • Provide advice to:
    • The NHS Commissioning Board
    • Monitor
    • The Secretary of State
  • Have powers to propose CQC investigations of poor services

Government Plans

The Government says that “We will make the NHS more accountable to patients. We will free staff from excessive bureaucracy and top-down control. We will increase real terms spending on the health service in every year of this Parliament. First, patients will be at the heart of everything we do. So they will have more choice and control, helped by easy access to the information they need about the best GPs and hospitals. Patients will be in charge of making decisions about their care. Second, there will be a relentless focus on clinical outcomes. Success will be measured, not through bureaucratic process targets, but against results that really matter to patients – such as improving cancer and stroke survival rates. Third, we will empower health professionals. Doctors and nurses must to be able to use their professional judgement about what is right for patients. We will support this by giving front-line staff more control. Healthcare will be run from the bottom up, with ownership and decision-making in the hands of professionals and patients.”

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