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Happy 70th Birthday NHS, its seems a long time since Nye Bevan created the National Health Service. When nurses wore starched aprons and the ward sister was an angel, well almost, it was Matron really. Your GP was God and you did as you were told; took your medicine when you were told to, never questioned your medics as they knew best; we believed them.

Everything was presented in a paper format, mostly handwritten in a way that you as a patient couldn’t read and if you could you probably had no way of finding out what it meant.

Everything was presented in a paper format, mostly handwritten in a way that you as a patient couldn’t read and if you could you probably had no way of finding out what it meant.

Now, jump 70 years ahead and the NHS and its services have changed out of all recognition. Gone is the ‘you don’t need to understand’ attitude; everything that they are going to do and what is needed is fully explained to you – the patient (or should I say the customer?) in words that you can understand and you can ask questions and get honest replies

Two other big things that have happened are patient-centred electronics based around the computer and the rise in Patient Involvement.

Many of us have got home computers, aren’t they great if we could ever get the kids off them?! So how can we improve health by using them? Four simple things:

  1. Sign on to your NHS patient record and see some information about you.
  2. Ask for a prescription renewal.
  3. Find out about your health and well being – how to keep well, live with your health problems and learn about your illness.
  4. The fourth and major thing is your computer can be used to pass information about your condition direct to your medical team. One classic example is how information surrounding self blood tests of some diabetics is passed through your in-house information system direct to a centre for evaluation and possible action. This is only the tip of an iceberg.

You as a patient can be involved from your practice all the way to working as a patient with NHS England.

Locally in Somerset, we have started that journey by all your medical records (hospital, GP etc.) being grouped into one online and accessible place, available to any health professional who needs to view them. However, when it comes to the question ‘is this being done without patient involvement?’ the answer is a very simple ‘no’.

You as a patient can be involved from your practice all the way to working as a patient with NHS England. No, I am not joking.

Where do I start?

I would suggest two ways; the easiest is to go along to your medical practice and join the Patients Participation Group or join a support group for your condition and become involved. At meetings, don’t sit like a lemon and say nothing – have your say (it may be something that no one else has thought about) and question others about their comments. Likewise, see what your local CCG/NHS England are doing and whether they are seeking members of the public to be part of decision making bodies or information giving groups.

I chaired a groundbreaking PPG in the West Midlands, worked with the local CCG and NHS England where I chaired a successful patient-led project, which in the end became known worldwide and included a trip to Paris to speak at an international conference.

I would encourage everyone to become informed and get involved in their health and wellbeing.

Further reading:

You can read more about this patient-led project in the paper published in the Patient Experience Journal (PXJ) Patient leadership: Taking patient experience to the next level?

Steve is also Chair of the Patient Leaders Expert Advisory Group, which has published a publication focusing on how patient and carer leaders can make a difference: Improving Experience of Care through people who use services

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