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* Ask many patients and they will give you many ideas of how the care they have had could have been improved, or services been more convenient.
* If user involvement is to be meaningful we need to be willing to listen to the patient's and public's informed views and respond accordingly.
How can anyone disagree that everybody has the right to decide what treatment they will accept for their ill-health? Similarly, it seems right that the general public has a real say in how the health service is planned and delivered as it is their money that is funding it.
But in reality, many clinicians resist user involvement or merely pay lip service to it. Few patients receive sufficient information and support to make a really informed choice about what treatment to opt for, and those planning and delivering health services seldom seek out and heed the general public's views.
The culture of user involvement has been very much shaped by the departments of health in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland over the past few years.
The NHS Executive published a document in 1999 called Patient and Public Involvement in the New NHS. (1) This document advises those working in the NHS to:
* promote patients' participation in their own care as active partners with professionals
* enable patients to become informed about their treatment and care and to make informed decisions and choices about it if they wish
* involve patients and carers in improving service quality
* involve the public as citizens in health and health service decisionmaking processes.
Nurses and other health professionals remain to be convinced that these guidelines are the way forward. But ask many patients and they will give you many ideas of how the care they have had could have been improved, or services been more convenient.
NHS consumers can be defined as (5):
* patients and potential patients …