Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Keep Asking Patients

I’m spending two days (Wednesday and Thursday) at the conference of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in Birmingham.

NICE is the body that publishes the best evidence-based practice in the National Health Service. They are well known for making the most authoritative statements about whether new drugs should be introduced in the NHS based on strict trials.

Imagine my delight therefore when I heard a discussion on stage in front of 500 or more people involving 4 highly regarded healthcare Gurus who all agreed that there is a desperate need for more patient involvement in the work of the NHS. Hooray - I have been saying that for 30 years!

It is music to my ears that these words are coming out of the mouths of such high profile people. My concern is whether this message is understood and implemented by Chief Executives, Directors of Finance and Senior Managers in the NHS.

In my experience (35 years as a manager in the NHS) when the chips are down and hard decisions have to be made the patients opinion comes nowhere in the list and it is the financial position and the bottom line that always is the priority.

So many times in my career I heard expressions like “We agree in principle about greater involvement of patients but our priority is to balance the books.” That sort of statement says it all.

My feeling is, and always has been, that if we genuinely engage with patients in an honest and open relationship then patients will help us make those difficult decisions. I believe patients are harsher critics than managers about wasted expenditure and inefficiency in the NHS. And patients have many creative ideas to solve these problems.

Nevertheless I remain optimistic as long as I hear these encouraging words from NICE.

1 comment:

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