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People welcome more patient power

29th June 2010

Research examining the public’s opinion on the new Government’s vision for healthcare reform is revealed today. 

In the first authorative poll since the General Election, people have been asked what their thoughts are on new measures aimed at increasing patient power and empowering front-line NHS staff. 

Results show a strong support for the expansion of patient choice. In the first indication that society is ready for a more consumer focussed approach to the delivery of healthcare, people are welcoming more freedom to choose and rate healthcare providers, GPs, and, access data regarding the performance of local services online. 

Sixty-six per cent of people questioned back the move to give every patient the option to choose their own healthcare provider, including using independent and voluntary suppliers, as long as it meets NHS standards and remains free at the point of entry. The majority would also be happy for a number of treatments to be provided outside the NHS, including procedures for children and IVF treatment. 

Nearly three quarters of people support the option to choose a GP regardless of where they live. Seventy-five per cent support the proposals to publish detailed data about the performance of healthcare providers online, to show how well or poorly they are performing. 

Ken Hesketh, CEO of mutual healthcare provider Benenden Healthcare Society, who commissioned the research, said: 

“Choice means different things to different people, but what is clear from these findings is there is a strong public appetite for more choice, more information and more control.

“These results, alongside the Government’s planned measures, encourage a step-change in the delivery of UK healthcare, offering many opportunities for the independent sector to get more involved in the provision of public services. The time is now ripe for providers to work more closely with the NHS, plugging some of the gaps and relieving existing pinch points. This is a positive move for the UK and can only serve to help drive up standards, deliver better value for money and support front line delivery of care” 

The survey also examined opinion on new plans to cut top-down governance of NHS, with plans to instead empower front-line NHS staff and give them more control of their working environment and delivery of local services. 

Interestingly, the findings show that while the public is open to the idea of healthcare professionals having greater involvement in the direct running of services, there is less of an appetite for major structural reform. Forty-nine per cent of all people support the plans, however, more than a quarter (27%) says they are opposed. Interestingly, men (51%) were more likely than women (46%) to support this suggestion. 

Ken continued: “What is apparent from the research is that the public want to be better informed about their local health services. After the financial crash, mutuality - as a model for shared ownership of services - is back in vogue, politically. What is absent, however, is an understanding of what this means at a grass-roots level. We believe that further debate and explanation of what mutual and co-operative models mean in practice is needed.” 

The research, conducted by ComRes, will be presented to MPs and key stakeholders at a closed event at the Palace of Westminster on 29th June 2010. Key-note speakers include Ken Hesketh, CEO of Benenden Healthcare Society; Hugh Bayley, MP and the new Chairman of the Health Select Committee, RT Hon Stephen Dorrell MP. 

 

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