The government has launched two new consultations on its proposals for better patient choice and information, designed to give people more control over their own healthcare as per the white paper Equity and excellence: Liberating the NHS.

Under its plans to increase patient choice, the Department of Health is proposing to open up the field by enabling people to choose services from any willing provider, including for diagnosis and treatment, thereby instilling a greater element of competition throughout the National Health Service.

In addition, maternity choice will be extended to include pre-conception, antenatal, and postnatal care, patients will be able to pick their own mental health service providers, and choices for end of life care are also to be improved, the government said.

According to Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, the NHS must embed the patient motto ‘no decision about me, without me’ into practice. “Patients should have choice at every stage of the journey – where they register with a GP, where they go for tests, who they see for treatment, and what care or treatment they receive from any willing provider [and], above all, they should be able to change these choices at any stage,” he stressed.

But the principle of ‘no decision about me without me’ is reliant on sound information and a culture that enables patients to use it effectively, which, in turn, depends upon accurate and up-to-date health and care records that form the basis of information systems for both patients and service users, the government explained.

To this end, its second consultation lays out plans for an “information revolution” that aims to help NHS patients make better-informed decisions on their own healthcare and give them more control over their care records.

A different culture

Critical to achieving this ‘revolution’ is transforming the way information is collected, analysed and used by the NHS and adult social care services and, in line with this, the government has promised to move away from information belonging to the system, away from top-down information collection, and away from a culture in which information has been held close and recorded in forms that are difficult to compare.

In addition, the government will step away from being the main provider of information on service quality to enable a range of separate organisations to offer such data to a variety of audiences, it said.

“The information we have changes our perspective and influences the decisions we make each and every day. The time has come to apply these principles to the delivery of health and care services,” noted Director General for Informatics Christine Connelly. “Building from a base of accurate care records the Information Revolution will deliver more informed patients, more engaged professionals, more efficient organisations and, ultimately, improved outcomes”.

The consultations close on January 14, 2011.