The voice of the patient is still not being listened to and this is why the Patients Association still tirelessly advocates for a healthcare system designed in partnership with those it serves, and for patients to be partners in their care.

A health system that works in partnership with patients would improve safety, save the NHS money, and free up time for both staff and patients. However, mounting pressures within the NHS have strained the vital relationship between patients and the health service. As a result, some patients are not getting the care they deserve. 

As we approach the general election, it is imperative that the next Government takes decisive steps to rebuild trust between patients, the NHS, government, and everything in between to ensure equitable access to care for all.

Central to this is the need to embed patient partnership as the default approach within the health and care system. The existing NHS Constitution provides a framework for patient engagement, yet its principles often remain ignored. The next Government must commit to reviewing and updating the constitution in collaboration with patients, ensuring their experiences and preferences are at the forefront of decision-making processes.

Shared decision making

Shared decision making should be embraced as the standard operating model across all healthcare services and patients must have greater representation within NHS structures and decision-making bodies. This would reverse the trend of decisions being made without consideration for their needs, and even improve NHS productivity.

Data collection within Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) should focus on patient-centred measures, informing service improvements and the design of new care models. Additionally, healthcare professionals must receive comprehensive training in patient partnership principles, fostering a culture of mutual respect and collaboration.

While strategies such as the elective care and primary recovery plans offer promising solutions, commitments in those plans have already stalled. There is inadequate funding to deliver on these and other plans. The next Government must commit to delivering these plans in their entirety, ensuring that no patient is left waiting for essential care.

Health inequalities

Addressing health inequalities must not be considered in isolation. Awareness of those who live with, or are at risk of inequalities run through the NHS from primary through to tertiary care and social care. More needs to be done to support marginalised communities. Co-production with patients should be a prerequisite for the development of new services, resulting in a service effectively delivering the needs of those it aims to serve.

Communication between patients and the NHS must also be greatly improved, with patients given access to their medical information and provided with dedicated care coordinators to navigate the system effectively. Additionally, mechanisms for expressing concerns and providing feedback should be actively promoted, fostering a culture of transparency and accountability. You can read why this is important in our election manifesto.

Ultimately, the next Government must prioritise patient partnership at every level of decision-making, ensuring that the healthcare system remains responsive to the needs of those it serves. By working collaboratively with patients, policymakers can pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive healthcare system for all.