Making patient “rights” work

The Government’s announcement of a range of new “rights” for the public to replace targets is welcome. Whilst targets might have been a useful driver in its early years, more recently they have been seen as bureaucratic and top down. However in order to drive this rights agenda forward a number of things need to happen:

  • Effective operation of people driven outcomes will require public authorities to gain far greater insight into customer expectations than in the past.
  • There is also a need for strong local advocacy to support those communities that can be either hard to reach or nowadays hard to engage. For example white working class communities with a strong perception of unfairness over changes they feel they have had no control over are a group that will need greater empowerment.

Of the new rights, Andy Burnham’s list of “entitlements” for users of NHS services could make the most impact as they have a lot of potential to  increase empowerment. However we all know that some people will be more confident in using their new rights. For this new patient driven process to work there needs to be a strong system of  support and insight into patient experience to ensure there is no newly developed “postcode lottery in entitlement” and those from poorer communities are encouraged to have equal access in utilising their rights.

These announcements also indicate a strong degree of consensus in this area across the main parties. I have previously blogged about Shadow Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley’s vision for the NHS which has a similar focus on patient driven outcomes. What this means to local government and health providers is that no change is not an option! The need for greater local advocacy to secure the rights of the less articulate is something that will not go away and the far sighted in the public sector will be preparing for it in a cost effective way now.

Peter Watt is Chief Executive of The Campaign Company

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