Enfin the Information Strategy – le noble oblige

At the Patient Information Event in Birmingham recently, we all were holding our breath about the Information Strategy – Earl Howe was there to tell all. He started safely in the 19th century by quoting Disraeli at us but then jumped into the DeLorean and came back to the future with a rush to tell us “People need to know the information they use is worth the iPad it’s read on”. No iFlies on him at the centre of the strategic information web. The Information Standard people were bouncing up and down already at the prospect of the Strategy as springboard. Researchers at the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust  wanted to understand the Telos of the organisation – thank you Michael Sander – which underpinned their view of the e-world of eMPOWERMENT:

‘Using Technology to improve patient experience and empowerment: the journey’- Dr Ray Johannsen-Chapman and Ninieri Pandit

A lot to join up

This and other presentations were proof that a lot of people have indeed been thinking hard about information for patients and for the health service. It is the contrast between this work and its sophisticated and focussed outlook and the familiar generalities of the long-promised Information Strategy that no doubt helped prompt Roy Lilley’s latest righteous outburst about the 100 page strategy document released this week – about 80 pages too long in Roy’s view and already out of date with its platitudes and statements such as:

“Information can bring enormous benefits.” Really? “Paper records get lost.” Surely not! “Advancing information technologies have revolutionised the way we interact”. Gosh, I hadn’t noticed! For %$£& sake!”.

Always a stimulating read, Mr Lilley.

It’s the delivery that counts

What is welcome in the Strategy, however, is a focus on action and outputs e.g. this one:

  • all patients with secure online access, where they wish it, to their personal GP records by 2015.

provided they can be delivered.  The NHS Alliance has its doubts: “It is high on aspiration, but inadequate on application, as it is unclear, in terms of actions expected or funding, how the vision will be put into practice.”

Reality check from the user perspective

Information has always been the life blood for consumer campaigns – Information has traditionally been at the top of the Consumer Rights list. What has changed now is that the consumer’s use of information technology often leaves organisations trying to keep up. The user does not have to wait to have information doled out to them in doses controlled both for quantity and quality.

That means the NHS has to design its IT in a way that makes use of our familiarity with what is out there now. National Voices has set out some down-to-earth ten key tests for the strategy’s success. We especially like these two:

  • You have not lost my notes. And you won’t charge me for access to my notes and records
  • I know who is in overall charge of my care – or my relative’s care – and can speak to them

They tie in the Patient Knows Best approach talked about in our blog earlier this month about patients being in charge now – not just of their records but their treatment with the power to organise access to their records and to speak on their behalf if necessary.

The Royal College of General Practitioners are identified as the lead on this project. We have to suppose that  they know as much about big IT projects as anybody the NHS has employed to carry through big IT projects recently. So that’s OK then.

The Moore Adamson Craig Partnership supports user and public participation, trains lay representatives and develops responsive health, care and education organisations. We are ready to work with and support all those who want to make sense and a success of the new structures of patient and public engagement within the new arrangements for health and social care commissioning and providing. Feel free to contact us to discuss the opportunities.

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