Having looked through the summary of Lord Darzi’s 10-year plan for the NHS in England aimed at making it the best health service in the world, Judy Viitanen and the PRimage team have noted that empowering patients and improving care are the central themes. Nearly every page talks about quality — a big ‘buzz-word’, as is patient satisfaction. We hope that as a result, patients will be better informed and better placed to influence their pathways of care – especially for long-term conditions, like diabetes.
As a specialist healthcare PR consultantancy, PRimage has long felt that there has been far too much bureaucracy and top down targets in the NHS, so we hope that this new strategy will see a change from this culture. And that local clinicians will be allowed to decide on local needs.
The health minister has persuaded the government to shift the emphasis of the health service from increasing the quantity of care to improving its clinical quality. NHS trusts will be paid according to the outcome of treatment, using a new set of indicators ranging from surgery death rates to surveys of how well patients feel after treatment. And, crucially in Judy Viitanen’s opinion, patients’ views about the quality of service and the compassion of staff will be regarded as just as important as the medical outcomes.
Since its inception in 1948 the NHS has always been a politically sensitive public service … and judging from a BBC survey which shows that patient expectations are rising, it will continue to be a pivotal priority: Alan Johnson, Lord Darzi and Gordon Brown must ensure that the ‘fine words’ in this strategy for the 21st century NHS are matched by an increase in spending on the health service, to enable those expectations and needs are fully met.