So says Healthcare for London (the Capital’s own Darzi “vision for better healthcare”) in a refreshingly short and to the point discussion from a recent workshop on patient, user and public engagement and – wait for it – empowerment. In governance terms, we certainly endorse HfL’s view that “public engagement has to be a board-level corporate endeavour”. Without this everything else is just process, however well executed, and vulnerable to the first whiff of financial necessity. And there are plenty of signs of that around in the real world at the moment.
The importance of branding and reputation building are also wound into the report and it is good to see those fundmental points acknowledged. Too many in the NHS still squirm when brand and reputation language are used. They need to grow up and acknowledge that service users understand this already. It is much more than the PCT changing its note paper to be “Anywhere NHS” and then having hurt feelings when it is pilloried in the local press for “wasting our money” instead of doing more hips and knees.
But for my money the phrase to blow up, print out, frame and stick up on the wall of every NHS office, practice, clinic and canteen across the land is this one: “staff need to put themselves in patients’ shoes. Just the physical act of lying down physically disempowers a patient”. If only this happened, it would change everything. Language mirrors reality” I seem to recall from a bygone philosophy lecture. So let’s stop talking about “patients” as a first step to empowering all of us and especially the service users and carers who should really be partners in planning and delivering their own care. Collectively we are the ones who have paid and are paying for it after all. I for one don’t want to take it lying down. And I want to be sure they understand that in the Boardroom.