How to empower patients to take control of their health outcomes

23 May 2018

Personalised healthcare and giving patients choice is a vital part of healthcare today. Patients have the right to choose who cares for them – not just in direct NHS healthcare, but also through the Continuing Healthcare (CHC) funding that patients like me, with primary health needs, receive to fund care in the home. Patients have the right to have their healthcare built around their unique needs and wishes, enabling them to live the lives they want to lead.

However, an essential part of achieving truly personalised healthcare is supporting patients to take responsibility for their health and wellbeing. Taking responsibility for health is not an innate ability that every patient has. Yet unlocking this in patients will transform their healthcare. I often say that patients cannot be helped if they don’t take at least some responsibility for their health. Doctors may give a treatment plan, but it’s up to the patient to carry that out, so we become the masters of our own health. Patients must also be prepared to use all resources available to them to manage their health, outside of just the treatment delivered by healthcare professionals. This takes support and guidance, a skill that needs to be nurtured over time. I’m also a big believer that we need to teach children to take control over their health, where possible, so that when they transition into adult services, it’s not a huge shock when they are expected to take control.

I benefit from patient choice and take responsibility for my own health and achieving my health-related outcomes. I’m 24 years old and I have a life-limiting condition that has caused physical disability and complex health needs. I have an amazing medical team that I’ve been able to choose for myself, who deliver personalised care tailored to my unique needs, including prioritising my quality of life, and who have supported and empowered me to take responsibility for my health. Without this personalised support and shared responsibility, I would not be able to live the life I want to lead. I also receive CHC funding for my homecare, which I previously received through a Personal Health Budget (PHB) but, due to a change in circumstances, had to go back to an agency-provided package. This loss of control has been devastating to me, but I will be transitioning back over to a PHB in the coming months so that I can regain control over my health, who I employ to care for me, and how I use that funding to achieve my desired health and life outcomes.

Patient choice begins with patients being empowered to take control. This is a skill that needs to be nurtured. Once achieved, the possibilities are endless.

Lucy Watts MBE, Patient Leader

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