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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 07:52 GMT 08:52 UK
NHS 'fails to involve patients'
NHS is not yet patient-led, says report.
Patients in the UK play less of a role in decisions about their own healthcare than those in other developed nations, a report concludes.

A study by the medical research charity, the Picker Institute, found the UK lags behind Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany and the US.

Current government reforms are designed to create a more patient-led NHS.

However, the report criticises the paternalistic attitude of UK health professionals.

A patient-centred NHS should be focusing its energies on improving the quality of face-to-face interactions between healthcare professionals
Angela Coulter, Picker Institute

This is preventing patients from taking an active role in managing their healthcare, it says.

The researchers analysed data from international patient surveys, comparing performance in relation to six indicators of the extent to which health professionals are supporting patients to become more engaged in their healthcare.

These included: quality of doctor-patient communication; access to alternative sources of information and advice, and how well the risks associated with treatment were explained.

The UK scored worst in almost all of the areas considered.

Preventative advice

According to the report, British patients were the least likely to receive advice from doctors on disease prevention and lifestyle changes and patients undergoing surgery in British hospitals were less likely to have access to information about their surgeon.

Fewer British patients were involved in treatment decisions, and they were less likely to take part in a medication review or be given information about medicine side-effects than those in the other countries.

UK patients were also less likely to be given clear instructions on what to do about monitoring and managing their treatment than those in all the other countries, except the US.

Fewer than one in five British people with chronic conditions had been given a self-management plan.

The report found that patients want advice from health professionals who are good communicators, who respect patients' preferences and are able to offer support in helping them to help themselves.

Lead researcher Angela Coulter, chief executive of the Picker Institute, said a major change was needed in the way health professionals worked with patients in the UK.

She said: "Professionals should be encouraged to recognise their responsibility to promote health literacy and disease prevention, support self-care and self-management and involve patients in the decisions that affect them."

"A patient-centred NHS should be focusing its energies on improving the quality of face-to-face interactions between healthcare professionals.

"Engaging patients more actively in making their own health decisions and supporting their efforts at self-care are the basic building blocks to a more cost efficient, financially sustainable NHS which we can't afford to ignore."

Dr David Wrigley, of Developing Patient Partnerships, same the recommendations of the report chimed with the work his campaigning group was doing.

"Promoting self-care and health literacy are at the heart of DPP's agenda, a more informed and empowered public equals a healthier public."

Dr David Colin-Thome, National Director for Primary Care, said the government was "absolutely committed" to patient involvement.

"Empowering patients to make choices and influence their own health is a key theme of the NHS Improvement Plan.

"It is fundamental that doctors always involve patients in all aspects of their healthcare."

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