Patient engagement: The first 100 days of the new government

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Part of Health and social care under the new government

The Secretary of State has stressed the role of patients, calling for a new 'social contract’ between the public and health and care services.

The aim is to empower people to exercise more control of their health and at the same time encourage them to take greater personal responsibility. The government has said that it wants patients to be empowered by increasing access to performance data about services, extending patient choice and expanding the use of digital technology to manage their health. The emphasis on personal responsibility is exemplified by the plan to print the cost of producing medicines on the packaging of all prescription medicines costing more than £20.

In mid-July Jeremy Hunt announced proposals for providing patients with more meaningful choice of providers and the services they receive.

From 2016, as part of the new electronic booking service GPs will be required to provide information on the relative waiting times and Care Quality Commission rating of different providers, in order to inform patient choice.

There are also plans for strengthening patients’ choice of GP, which currently can be limited by a lack of capacity at some practices. The government’s intention is to address this by increasing GP numbers in areas where there is a shortage of doctors and providing alternatives to practices that are rated as ‘inadequate’.

The government is also seeking to improve patient choice in three areas: maternity services; end-of-life care; and services for those with complex long-term conditions. NHS England will develop proposals by the end of 2015 for ensuring that patients are provided with meaningful choice in each of these areas.

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The government has described technology as key to empowering patients, particularly the most vulnerable. Digital inclusion is a key priority in Personalised health and care 2020, the NHS National Information Board’s (NIB) framework for action.

In support of this ambition, the government has asked Martha Lane Fox, former government digital champion, to develop practical proposals for the NIB on how to increase take up of new digital innovations by those who would benefit from them the most. The proposals are due by the end of the year.

Alongside efforts to empower patients, the government is also seeking to increase individuals’ sense of personal responsibility for their health, their families, and NHS resources. Within the context of an ageing population, Jeremy Hunt has stressed the responsibility that individuals and families should take in caring for older people.

At the beginning of July Jeremy Hunt announced his intention to put indicative pricing on the packaging of prescription medicines costing more than £20, as well as to label them as being funded by the UK taxpayer. The intention is that this will both reduce waste and improve the quality of patient care by increasing levels of adherence to medicine regimes. Plans for this will be developed this year, with implementation in 2016.

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