“Empowered Patients” Key to NHS Culture Change

“Empowered Patients” Key to NHS Culture Change

The chief executive of a number of private hospitals in the UK asserts that empowered patients are the key to improving standards and outcomes within the NHS


Steve Melton of Circle Partnership states that the push for transparency around NHS services simply isn’t enough of a driver for improvements, and that it can actually make matters worse. He states that the Freedom of Information Act has revolutionised transparency, but that this has caused some people go to great lengths to subvert it and ensure discussions aren't written down.

“Transparency, if poorly managed, can lead to more cover-ups” Melton states.


“So the question then becomes: how can increasing patient power help if they don't always choose to use it, and how can we improve transparency without people gaming the system? The answer lies in transforming culture”.


Melton cites examples where management has transformed hospitals to consistently pursue feedback from it’s patients. In Hinchingbrooke, since introducing a shortened questionnaire and focusing on feedback as central to treatment, the number of items of feedback has risen to 24,000 a year from 1,200.


Once feedback is collated, all staff including doctors, nurses and managers on the frontline go through the feedback together every month and take action to improve services. Additionally, the new Stop the Line initiative enforces the duty of staff to stop any procedure if they thought a patient might be in danger. All senior staff then attend the scene of the incident and a decision is taken before an operation can resume.

“Transparency does have a role in improving care. But it is naive at best to imagine that this alone will miraculously improve standards. Without the accompanying culture of openness and accountability, efforts to increase information about patient care will fall on deaf ears. We need a cultural revolution in the NHS – and we need the leadership to make it stick” Melton concludes.

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