Charities say choice in the NHS must not come at the expense of patient involvement

National Voices, a coalition of more than 140 health and social care charities, says it cannot support Government proposals to extend provider choice in the NHS until there is an equal drive for people‘s full involvement in their care and treatment.

The charities have told the government, in response to several consultations, that this kind of patient involvement – in care planning, deciding treatment options, and managing chronic conditions, for example – is a higher priority for patients than being able to choose from different providers of treatment.

National Voices makes these points in its response to a consultation on the draft ‘Mandate’ . The Mandate sets out the objectives for the new NHS Commissioning Board, which is due to be established on Monday 1 October 2012.  The Board will play a key role in delivering the NHS reforms and ministers say the Mandate will ensure it ‘achieves the things that really matter and make a difference to people’. 

The draft Mandate contains an objective relating to ‘putting patients first’ which would require the Board to implement a new Choice Framework, including guarantees that patients can choose who to see for outpatient appointments and diagnostic tests, for instance. The same objective makes rhetorical reference to other kinds of patient decisions, but without creating an equally strong drive towards implementation.

Don Redding, Director of Policy at National Voices says:
‘”Putting patients first” means supporting real involvement in their care and treatment.
Choice is valuable but, at this point, there is a real risk that the objective on extending choice will occupy commissioner and provider attention to the detriment of patient involvement.’

“The draft Mandate does not provide clarity about what patient involvement means, nor its central importance in meeting the challenges facing the NHS and social care. We need to be confident that the Government and the Board are clear that ‘patient involvement’ is not the same as ‘choice’. 

“We want ministers to change the Mandate to ensure the NHS Commissioning Board puts patient involvement and person-centred approaches at the heart of its vision, strategy and business plans. We can help them get this right, drawing on insight and expertise from the patient movement” 

There is strong evidence that increasing patient involvement can directly help meet the ‘Nicholson challenge’ (to generate efficiencies over the next four years) facing the NHS by:

•    improving outcomes
•    improving quality, especially in relation to patient reported experience
•    leading to more effective and appropriate use of resources.

National Voices wants the NHS Commissioning Board to lead a national drive to develop the tools, guidance, incentives and awareness among health care commissioners that are needed to ensure much greater patient involvement in the NHS. 

It wants services commissioned by the Board and clinical commissioning groups to help build the health literacy, skills and confidence of patients to be as involved as possible in managing their care and treatment, especially in relation to long term conditions.

For more information on National Voices visit www.nationalvoices.org.uk; Twitter: @NVTweeting

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Contact
For National Voices media enquiries please contact: Jules Acton or Sarah Scadding on 020 3176 0737 / 0738 jules.acton@nationalvoices.org.uk

About National Voices
National Voices believes in people shaping health and social care. It is a coalition of more than 140 health and social care charities and speaks on behalf of its members and of the millions of patients, carers and social services users that they represent. It works to ensure that patient voices are heard and that they influence decisions at national level. National Voices' website.