Last week at the Reform Conference a repeating theme was the universal call for public involvement at every level. This shouldn’t come as a big surprise. The Government after all set NHS England the challenge of becoming “dramatically better” at involving service users and their carers.
We know therefore that giving renewed emphasis and investment to service user empowerment at every level is vital to improving quality and making health systems more sustainable. Clearly, the argument makes sense, services should be defined around on what outcomes those using and paying for want.
How best can we do it? When talking to the service user it is important to listen, but we can also help them know what it is in health and social care that needs to change. We need to help them define this. We should also look beyond our own backyard; the UK can learn from overseas health systems about behaviours and mindsets to change the patient role. We must support individuals to express their views and preferences in a way that best suits them, including hard to reach groups, and empowering them to challenge what we think they want. And giving individuals the chance to join patient groups, so they can share experiences and participate in decisions about their health and care.
What’s important now therefore is not the argument – that’s been won – it’s must be about making this happen.